Illinois

In Chicago, people are buying vacant lots from the city for $1. Here's how it works

Pictured is a $1 lot from the Englewood area in Chicago.
Pictured is a $1 lot from the Englewood area in Chicago. U.S. Forest Service

For $1 each, the city of Chicago is selling more than 3,200 vacant lots to anyone who wants a yard, a garden or maybe an outdoor patio.

It's part of the city's Large Lot program, which is in its fourth year, according to the Chicago Tribune. The city calls it a "neighborhood stabilization initiative" aimed at selling the abandoned properties to current property owners, block clubs and nonprofits. It acquired most of the lots through property tax and demolition liens, the Tribune reported.

The properties for sale are on the city's south and west sides.

More than 300 applications for lots have been submitted as of Friday, according to the program's website. The process can take up to a year.

Other cities have done something similar to the $1 lot idea, including Kansas City and Detroit.

In 2016, Kansas City sold 45 abandoned homes for $1.

The catch?

Each lot included a "dangerous" house — buildings that were in need of more than just a little TLC.

Laurie Schwab and Jenna Squires are two of 31 buyers participating in the Kansas City Land Bank's Dollar House program. The house that Schwab bought was wrecked by fire and other damage.

The city started the program in an effort to eliminate blight. The new owners of these properties were required to rehabilitate the houses within a year and to occupy the home for at least three years. In return, the city offered a $8,500 rebate to those homeowners.

Now, in Chicago, interested buyers have until July 2 to submit applications for the 3,219 properties that are left over. So far, the program's website says the city has sold at least 1,200 lots.

WGN 9 first shared the announcement on its Facebook page Thursday, and dozens of commenters have been weighing in on the pros and cons.

Several warn of high property taxes that might come with owning the lots.

Examples provided on the Large Lot website show property owners in 2017 paid $361.25 for a 2,987-square-foot lot in the Greater Englewood neighborhood while another paid as much as $1,585.12 for a 5,653-square-foot lot in the same neighborhood.

Others point out that not just anyone can buy the lots. The program requires you to be a current property owner on the same block.

According to the Tribune, buyers are also required to maintain the lot's appearance and own it for at least five years.

Meanwhile, some seem intrigued by the idea of owning their own piece of land.

Some of have used their newly acquired lots for gardening. The program says land owners can also build on their lots apartments, garages, pools, porches and decks, and driveways. They also suggest public uses for the space, such as community gardens, playgrounds and dog parks.

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