The City of St. Louis estimates that it has approximately 25,000 vacant lots and buildings. They are seen in nearly every neighborhood, but it’s a systemic and disproportional problem in several neighborhoods. The goal of Cara’s administration will be not only to reduce vacancy citywide but to address the problem by combatting the issues that have led to the unsustainable state of dilapidated housing.
The city can do this by:
- Focusing on neighborhoods with high rates of poverty. The disinvestment of many northside neighborhoods has cultivated two different St. Louis experiences for those who live here – those in deteriorating neighborhoods and those in thriving neighborhoods. Cara will leverage federal and local dollars to stabilize blocks and put city-owned vacant parcels into the hands of residents who live in the community and shift the focus to the areas that need the most support.
- Organizing development that is equitable for all St. Louisans. The city will work to stabilize blocks and bring in new investment for a combination of affordable housing and market-rate development. Cara passed BB 238, which paved the way for the development of Chippewa Park in Dutchtown, the largest affordable housing development in the 20th Ward in more than 20 years.
- Holding landlords accountable for their properties. Cara has led the way in making absentee owners accountable by passing legislation that removed an exemption from building code violations for large developers. That has resulted in significant revenue for the city. Most speculators do not live in the city. They should not be allowed to buy large amounts of property in low-income areas and then hold vacant lots with no penalty or concern for the neighbors in that community.
The 20th Ward is a microcosm of the city, mirroring its assets and many of its challenges – 39% poverty, 30% vacancy and crime rates higher than many other neighborhoods. Over the past five years, Cara’s work has changed the trajectory of some of the ward’s most challenged areas. The principles she has operated under are not new, but Cara will commit to them citywide. They have worked in cities across the nation; they worked in the 20th Ward; and they can work throughout the city.