NPR: For Sale: Vacant Lots On Chicago Blocks, Just $1 Each

Sonya Harper picks peppermint she's been growing in a vacant lot on her block in Chicago. With her neighbors, she's hoping to acquire two adjacent overgrown lots under the city's "Large Lot Program" so they can expand the community garden. Photo by David Schaper

Sonya Harper picks peppermint she’s been growing in a vacant lot on her block in Chicago. With her neighbors, she’s hoping to acquire two adjacent overgrown lots under the city’s “Large Lot Program” so they can expand the community garden. Photo by David Schaper

National Public Radio interviewed Phil Ashton, former GCI scholar and associate professor of urban planning and policy, on a Chicago program that sells vacant city-owned lots in selected neighborhoods to homeowners on the same block for $1. Ashton says the programs taps committed homers as a vital resource, but is just one of many efforts that are needed.

Phil Ashton, professor of urban affairs at the University of Illinois, Chicago, says the program selling vacant lots for a buck taps an underutilized resource.

“Existing homeowners are sometimes some of the best assets that these neighborhoods have,” Ashton says. “They have a lot of energy. I mean, these are people fully invested in their neighborhoods.”

But Ashton says some of these kinds of efforts have waned after a couple of years in other cities — so the big question is what else can be done to sustain urban revitalization.

“There’s got to be something more, really,” he says. “Otherwise we’re sort of facing this very pragmatic tool being just a drop in the bucket.”

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