AUBURN GRESHAM — Aiming to take advantage of a city program, Venus London is hoping to buy the empty lot next door to her Auburn Gresham home.
For a buck.
The Large Lots land sale program has been expanded to London's neighborhood, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday, where there are 100 city-owned lots available. Over the next seven weeks, people will be able to purchase up to two parcels of vacant property for as little as $1 dollar per lot. Applicants must own property on the same block, be current on property taxes and have no outstanding debt to the city, such as parking tickets or water bills, among other requirements.
Buyers must pay property taxes on the lots and maintain them. The property cannot be sold for at least five years.
London, who lives in the 7700 block of South Throop Street, said she wants to dedicate a portion of the lot to gardening and the rest to an area for her children to play.
She said she thinks the program is a good idea because empty lots throughout the community “add to the devaluing of the neighborhood” and “tarnish the potential the neighborhood can have.”
Nicole Wheatly is spearheading the "Your Voice Matters" campaign through the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation. The goal of the project is to find ways to revitalize the community.
“What we notice is that our community is saturated with vacant lots,” she said, adding that the lots are a detriment to the community.
Wheatly is encouraging people to find creative ways to use the lots to benefit the community. There’s an empty lot on her block that she said she plans to purchase.
Getting residents to think of ways to improve the community is what the "Your Voice Matters" campaign is about, said Carlos Nelson, the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation’s executive director.
“Once we heard about the potential of the Large Lots program, we began strategically informing residents of what it could be, what some of the opportunities might look like,” Nelson said. “We then started showing examples of other areas of the city where folks have acquired the adjacent vacant lot, or the lot up the street and some of the improvements they’ve made.”
The campaign looks at housing also, which Nelson said is important. There are too many abandoned buildings that need to be rehabbed.
Ald. David Moore (17th) isn’t opposed to the program, but said that it’s not good enough to simply have people purchase the lots. He’s more concerned about the broader impact these purchases will have on the community.
“I’m trying to do a mass development plan for my community and see how those lots can be utilized,” he said. “How does having a lot enhance the community?"
Moore said he’s more interested in affordable housing and working with developers. Those things will revitalize the neighborhood, he said.
Nearly 500 city-owned lots have been sold since the program’s inception in 2014. All sales are intended to support residential uses, with most lots being planned as side yards, community gardens or landscaped open space. To apply, visit LargeLots.org.
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