Buying vacant Chicago lots for $1

Many Rust Belt cities have plenty of empty land and the city of Chicago is selling some of these lots for $1 a piece:

In an effort to combat urban blight and the illegal activity that often follows, the City of Chicago has announced a major expansion of its Large Lots program that offers empty city-owned parcels to nearby homeowners for just $1.

After debuting in Englewood and East Garfield Park in 2014, more than 550 homeowners have so far taken advantage of the program. Now, thanks to its recently expanded scope, Large Lots will extend to 33 Chicago communities on the West and South sides, offering 4,000 empty properties at the extremely discounted rate…

Not just anyone can swoop in and grab real estate for a buck, however. To purchase a lot, buyers must reside on the same block, be current on their property taxes, and be in good financial standing with the city in order to be eligible. Large Lots will be accepting applications on its website through the end of January.

The city tells the Chicago Tribune that all lots in the program are reserved for residential uses such as extended side or back yards, gardens, parking pads, or landscaped green space. In addition to improved neighborhood aesthetics, the Trib also cites a study that found the program yielded a notable drop in nearby littering, drug activity, and prostitution.

Eliminating empty properties is probably a good first step. But, what is the next step? What is the long-term solution to reviving both these properties and neighborhoods?

I will occasionally get questions from students as to why people or businesses don’t see vacant land like this as opportunities. On one hand, the Chicago metropolitan region is in desperate need of affordable housing. On the other hand, these properties are often located in poorer neighborhoods. But, a collection of residents or organizations could really make something interesting out of cheaper properties and the city would benefit from better uses.

One thought on “Buying vacant Chicago lots for $1

  1. This is really just a re-up of the dollar-lot program they had in the 90’s or early 00’s, and which has continued across the city under the Adjacent Neighbort Lot Acquisition Program (ANLAP) which allows folks to buy a city-owned lot for around $1100.

    As you point out it isn’t a revitalization plan which the city really doesnt’ seem to have for these neighborhoods. As well as being something of a beautification/stabilization tool, it seems that the real target is to take vacant land off the city’s ledger and responsibility (they have to cut the grass on them a few times a year and do at least some cleanup) and to make them at least slightly tax-producing again. Not bad goals at all, but not really a revitalization plan. After the city gutted the “New Homes For Chicago” initiative about 10 years ago, there really hasn’t been a push for affordable home ownership opportunities and affordable rental efforts plod on under the same red-tape and difficult financing outlook that it always has.

    Still, here in North Lawndale, these lot programs have been good thing overall. Alot of blocks look just a bit cleaner as folks have taken on the care of their new larger yards and nearly free land is a great investment even here. A few months back I applied to acquire the next door lot to my home under ANLAP, but maybe it will be cheaper as a dollar lot.

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