The City of Chicago has announced a new consolidated program to sell over 2,000 city-owned lots across various neighborhoods in the south and west sides. Focusing on neighborhoods like Englewood, West Englewood, New City, Garfield Park, North Lawndale, and Austin, the program aims at creating an equitable path for property ownership in areas that have long suffered from widespread disinvestment. Dubbed ChiBlockBuilder, it is being led by the Department of Planning and Development and city commissioner Maurice Cox with the blessing of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Hoping to smooth the buying process in order to revitalize areas with large swathes of empty disused land and be a residential complement to Invest South/West, the lots will be sold at market value aside from a few exceptions. This isn’t the first time Chicago has sold city lots at a discounted value, it often sells them for $1 to developers for major projects including mixed-use affordable housing and local families in the past. However now the program is focusing on three main goals derived from the department’s racial equity framework*:
- Reflect On Our Past: Decades of racially-driven disinvestment have led to high concentrations of city-owned lots via redlining, contract buying, imminent domain, and highway building displacing many Black and Brown communities.
- Reclaim Our Present: Drive by transparency, justice, and community leadership, the city aims to put these lots back in the hands of residents and developers via a simple process.
- Reimagine Our Future: Each lot represents opportunities for residents to reclaim their neighborhoods, hoping to attract local investments and build community-driven wealth.
* Via ChiBlockBuilder
Now 2,214 lots are up for grabs out of the 9,075 the city owns in the two city areas, these will be able to be used for four types of projects including;
- Housing: Affordable or market rate for those making up to 140-percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) which the developer may also live in.
- Side Yards: Which can be fenced off and used for any purpose allowed by current zoning.
- Commercial Development: For small businesses or can be mixed-use to include a housing element.
- Open Space: Green areas for the local community and recreation including parks, gardens, and plazas, similar to this proposal in Bucktown.
Lots to be used as side yards and for open space will be sold for roughly 10 percent of the appraised value. For example the 3,114-square-foot lot at 3414 W Grenshaw Street is appraised at $17,125 but will be sold for $1,713 to eligible applicants. An interactive map of available properties can be found here.
The process will help remove hurdles regularly faced by buyers, including issues with past taxes, foreclosures, and more. Now launching after multiple community meetings, those wishing to participate will need to have a set plan for the space prior to showing interest, and the actual sale of the lot will only be processed once the buyer has received building permits and secure financing for their proposal. Additional information sessions will be held on December 8th and in January which can be accessed here.
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The city should have upzoned many of these to allow for higher density development. Side-yards are totally anti-urban and should have been removed from eligibility. There are far too many of them already.