Monday, October 8, 2007

Mayor Revitalizes Side Yard Program

The City of Pittsburgh will begin mailing 150 letters alerting homeowners in target neighborhoods - Central Northside, Brighton Heights, Lawrenceville, Elliot, and Greenfield - that they may be able to purchase a vacant, adjacent lot at a fraction of its market value. The ultimate goal of this strategy is to eliminate blight by finding owners for the City’s more than 2,500 vacant lots.

“Vacant lots impose social, economic, and environmental costs on our neighborhoods,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. “Residents call my office repeatedly asking me how they can take over a vacant lot in their neighborhood—now we will give them their answer before they ask the question.”

Created in 1994 by the Vacant Property Working Group, the Side Yard Program has depended on residents adjacent to vacant, City-owned lots to inquire about making a purchase. The result has been an unimpressive 454 total purchases throughout its 13-year history.

Under the direction of Mayor Ravenstahl, the City’s finance department designated staff and resources this summer to investigate all City-owned vacant lots to determine whether surrounding homeowners would be eligible to purchase them. The first-phase of the marketing program starts next week. Letters explaining the program and acquisition process will be sent to qualified homeowners in the target neighborhoods.

“The program does not need to be reinvented, it just needs aggressively marketed,” said Aggie Brose, Deputy Director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Cooperation. “It is commendable that this mayor is revving up the program and I am excited to see that he is taking such an aggressive approach.”

At the a cost of $200 per lot, residents will have the opportunity to expand their garden or backyard, create a parking pad or patio, all while increasing their property value and improving the quality of their neighborhood.

“Marketing the property to adjacent homeowners is a sensible solution to a large problem,” Mayor Ravenstahl said. “Land and property is a great – and often scarce – asset in urban centers. Increasing property values and eliminating blight through the Side Yard Program makes sense for the economic health of our neighborhoods and our residents.”

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