Ypsilanti aims to empower residents with new side-lot program

Ypsilanti wants to empower its residents by letting some of them purchase the lawns they mow. Talk about grassroots.

The city of Ypsilanti is working to launch a side-lot program where homeowners who live next to vacant lots owned by the city can buy them for as little as $1. Often the lots in question are small city lots where the city razed a blighted building and left a grassy area that more times than not the neighbors take care of.

"We're looking at increasing someone's yard," says Beth Ernat, director of community & economic development for the city of Ypsilanti. "It rewards property owners who have been taking care of the property."

The city hopes selling the lots to local residents will mean generating more property tax revenue and spending less city resources on maintaining vacant land. Similar side-lot programs have been deployed in other Michigan cities, like Detroit, Saginaw and Flint.

"It has worked in very well in other cities," Ernat says. "We think it's worth giving it a try here."

The city of Ypsilanti hopes to have the program ready for launch in October and selling lots in November. Corner lots and lots of big acreage, such as the Water Street properties, are not available. Available lots will first be offered to adjacent owner-occupants who are in good standing with the city regarding property taxes and code violations. For information, contact Ernat at bernat@cityofypsilanti.com or (734) 482-9774.

"We have received a lot of interest from word of mouth," Ernat says. "We will be notifying every neighbor about this."

Source: Beth Ernat, director of community & economic development for the city of Ypsilanti
Writer: Jon Zemke

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