Individuals Make Better Decisions About Land Use Than Do Government Commissions, So Why Won’t the LRA Sell?
In July, the city of St. Louis’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) Board of Commissioners heard public testimony from six persons seeking to purchase property, and the board actually approved three of the sales! (Commissioners deferred action on one of the properties and offered a five-year “garden lease” on each of the other two parcels subject to public testimony.) Per its usual practice, the LRA sent buyers off with the encouragement that they “will receive a letter in the mail” enumerating their required next steps for taking title to the city-owned properties.
All other agenda items received their recommended actions.
The above may seem like nothing more than minutiae to persons unfamiliar with the problems associated with LRA ownership of formerly private lands, but for persons who live next door to any of the LRA’s thousands of parcels in the city or for taxpayers anywhere in the city, the above actions are of particular significance.
One person who testified this month seeking to purchase a vacant lot adjacent to her home spoke of how burglaries are “a constant problem,” and that she hoped the acquisition of the lot would allow her to better protect her property. Another potential purchaser expressed her desire to become a homeowner, only to be rebuffed by the commission with an admonishment that she “talk to the alderman,” demonstrate stronger financial abilities, and await further review by the commission at the next meeting. A husband and wife expressed their desire to purchase the lot adjacent to their home in order to provide space for room additions to accommodate their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. Two representatives from a church spoke about how the purchase of a fenced parking lot would greatly assist in the church’s programming and outreach.
Considered together, the myriad of motivations and the multitude of proposed uses for LRA-owned land parcels suggest to me that individuals, when free to conduct land transfers, make better decisions about land use than do any seemingly well-intentioned bureaucrats on an executive commission.