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American Dream for Sale: $1,000 for an Empty Lot in Newark

In a bid for revenue and rejuvenation, Newark is selling vacant lots for $1,000. Buyers promise to build a home and stay for at least five years.
March 14, 2015, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Facing a surplus of vacant lots and demand from priced-out New Yorkers, the city of Newark held a Valentine's Day sale: land for $1,000 with a catch. Matt A.V. Chaban writes, "Those lucky enough to get a plot must close on it within three months, build a home within 18 and then spend five years living there, all under the watchful eye of City Hall. They will not be obliged to pay property taxes during that span, and some financial assistance is available, but if they fail to follow through, they will be fined and could face repossession."

Newark wants to promote economic and social resilience in areas long associated with blight. "By dressing it up as a Valentine's Day event, the administration hoped to emphasize that Newark, where 29 percent of the 277,000 residents live below the poverty line, was a place for families — families who saw value in properties that their previous owners had long since given up on."

An influx of property-hungry middle class buyers raises the question of gentrification. But given the event's popularity, Newark is unlikely to hold off on future lot sales. "For those who had their hearts broken, there is still hope. The city has at least 2,000 vacant lots it wants to redevelop, including 500 suitable for homes like these."

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Published on Monday, February 23, 2015 in New York Times
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