Four thousand vacant city-owned lots in 33 Chicago neighborhoods will be offered to property owners on the same block for $1 under a dramatic expansion of a program pioneered by Mayor Richard M. Daley and pushed to the next level by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Starting Tuesday and continuing through Jan. 31, the city’s Department of Planning and Development will be accepting applications at www.LargeLots.org from property owners in the eligible areas. They can purchase up to two city-owned lots for $1 each.
To qualify, applicants must own property on the same block, have paid their property tax bills and have no other outstanding debts to the city.
Lots must be vacant and city-owned with residential zoning. They will be sold “as is” using a quit-claim deed. The lots can be re-sold, but only after five years.
“We want to restrict it. It’s part of building community. It’s part of giving people on the block the opportunity to own and keep it. What we don’t want is people getting lots, speculating, flipping. We want this to be a community-building, stabilizing effort,” Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman told a news conference Tuesday on the West Side.
Daley gave black ministers unprecedented access, sold hundreds of city-owned lots to black churches for $1 each and allowed the clergy to shape how City Hall administers federal empowerment zone funds.
City lots were part of the political currency Daley used to maintain coveted support from the African-American clergy.
Emanuel has taken the program and run with it in an effort to eradicate and repurpose large vacant lots that have been a blight on inner-city neighborhoods and a magnet for fly-dumping and other crime.
“We tried this over the last two years in 550 successful sales. In every one of those efforts, there has been overwhelming, increasing support by residents and community. Aldermen were all catching on. They were getting a lot of inquiries,” the mayor said.
Emanuel said the 33 neighborhoods were chosen because they all have “an over-abundance of empty lots that were driving down property values.”
“There’s a lot of people that want to see that lot turned into a garden. Or that lot turned into an additional yard and make the improvement,” he said. “We want people who are invested in the community to be investors in the community. Holding it for five years ensures that your interests and the city’s interest and your fellow neighbors interests are all aligned.”
Neighborhoods covered by the dramatic expansion include: Auburn Gresham; Austin; Avalon Park; Burnside; Calumet Heights; Chatham; East Garfield; East Side; Englewood; Fuller Park; Hegewisch; Humboldt Park; Morgan Park; New City; North Lawndale; Riverdale; Roseland Pullman; South Chicago; South Deering; South Shore; Washington Heights; West Englewood; West Garfield and West Pullman.
Large lots will also be offered for sale in parts of: Chicago Lawn; Douglas; Gage Park; Grand Boulevard; Greater Grand Crossing; the Near West Side; Oakland; South Lawndale and Washington Park.
Earlier this week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. mentioned the blight of vacant city-owned lots as black elected officials came together to demand more investments in inner-city neighborhoods after the murder of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ 15-year-old grandson after an argument over a pair of gym shoes.
“A hundred thousand vacant homes and abandoned lots was not caused by black officials. Closing 50 public schools and laying off 5,000 teachers. When those schools went down, the housing and poverty rate went [up] . . . Neighborhood grocery stores and cleaners went down with them,” Jackson said then.