Vacant lots available for $1

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There’s less than a week left to apply to buy any of the roughly 250 city-owned vacant lots being sold in Austin. The price is right: just $1 per lot.

The pilot program is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s five-year housing plan, intended to create, improve and preserve more than 41,000 units of housing, according to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.

To be eligible to purchase a lot, an applicant must own property on the same block he or she would like to purchase the lot, be current on property taxes and owe no financial obligations — such as parking tickets and water bills — to the city.

An individual may apply for up to two lots. Churches are not eligible for the program.

Austin is one of the targeted neighborhoods; hundreds of applications have already been received in Englewood and Garfield Park, according to a recent Chicago Tribune story.

The program offers the potential for community members to spruce up areas on their blocks that have been sitting vacant and collecting trash.

Some residents, such as Terry Redmond and her husband Lee, have already been working with neighbors to maintain some of those vacant lots. Redmond helps run a block club – Club 5400 – where young people from the neighborhood meet and organize among themselves to help in the clean-up efforts. (Here’s a story AustinTalks did on the couple’s efforts.)

“I honestly think (the Large Lot Program) is a benefit for anybody who wants to expand their property line, especially if it’s right next door to them, or if they want to create a community garden in the neighborhood,” Redmond said.

Redmond, who has owned property in Austin since she and her husband moved there from Oak Park in 1988, has put in her application for two lots in the 5400 block of West Monroe and would like to turn at least one of the lots into a community garden, she said.

All lots will be sold “as is” and are zoned for residential purposes. Lots may not be used for commercial purposes.

Applicants who are awarded lots will have to pay property taxes on the lots and agree to maintain ownership for at least five years. Lots will be awarded free of any back taxes owed on them.

The program is accepting applications for Austin lots through Jan. 30.

After the deadline has passed, the Chicago City Council will look at the applications in committee before awarding lots, said Peter Strazzabosco of the Department of Planning and Development. Applicants will receive information on the status of their application in mid-March.

For more information on the lot sale program, or to apply for a lot, click here. Or call the city at (312) 744-0363.

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