Detroit residents have proven just how popular the Detroit Land Bank Authority’s (DLBA) Side Lot program is, buying more than 20,000 parcels of vacant land through the DLBA since 2014, Land Bank officials and Mayor Mike Duggan announced today.
Sold for just $100 each, Side Lots are a way to restore land ownership, eliminate blight, and make neighborhoods safer and more attractive. Since launching in 2014, the Side Lot program has remained an exclusive benefit to Detroit homeowners and the most affordable access point for vacant land.
“The Detroit Land Bank Authority has sold more Side Lots than any other land bank in the country; the success of this program is really unprecedented,” said Saskia Thompson, DLBA Executive Director. With 20,153 total Side Lot sales and an average area of just over 4,078 square feet per lot, the DLBA’s Side Lot sales total nearly 1,887 acres or 3 square miles of land – that’s the size of the City of Highland Park.
“If there is another city in America that has turned over this much publicly owned land to individual residents in modern history, I’m not aware of it,” said Mayor Duggan, who launched the program with Land Bank officials on a snowy day in 2014 on a southwest Detroit Side Lot in 2014. “This is the Detroit Land Bank at its best and exactly how we envisioned it working, helping Detroiters own more property and build generational wealth.”
Michael Williams of Williams Park Alliance, Brightmoor, District 1, purchased properties, including Side Lots in multiple Brightmoor locations with a dream of bringing two parks to his neighborhood.
“The Side Lot program is great. We need to take these blighted properties and turn them into community spaces,” said Williams in a press release.
One of the parks, named for his late mother, Etheldra Mae Williams, is located on Burgess Street between Lyndon and Acacia. Here, Williams hosts free community events, offers gathering spaces and a place for people to interact with nature. He sees the Side Lot program and other opportunities to purchase vacant land as a tool to rid the city of blight.
“I am currently looking to buy more properties and believe Detroit can eliminate blight through this program,” said Williams.
Each Side Lot returns an estimated $50 to the city’s tax rolls annually. With 20,000+ now on the books, that is an estimated $1 million in tax revenue this year alone. More than 10,000 Side Lots are currently listed for sale through the DLBA, and new listings are added every month based on inquiries from Detroiters. That means there are still many opportunities for residents to invest in their communities and transform blighted, vacant parcels into green space.
Residents can purchase Side Lots online through the DLBA’s buildingdetroit.org website. It is easy to search available properties by typing in the resident’s home address or searching by lot address.
Who is eligible to purchase a Side Lot?
The Side Lot program caters exclusively to Detroit homeowners. Buyers must own an occupied home adjacent to the Side Lot. Side Lots can be to the left, right, or rear of the house. Eligibility requirements include:
Own a house that shares a property line with the Side Lot
Be current on property taxes or in compliance with a tax payment plan
No outstanding blight tickets
$100 payment and completed application
Why purchase a Side Lot?
Side Lots put publicly owned vacant lots back into the hands of Detroit residents for private ownership. Owning the lot or lots next door gives neighbors the power to control the land in their community, expand their yards, create gathering spaces, and beautify their blocks. “Real estate is a powerful tool in building strong communities and generational wealth. The Side Lot program provides a direct, accessible, and affordable pathway for land ownership,” said Thompson, DLBA Executive Director. “Each Side Lot sold represents opportunity for Detroit residents to invest in themselves and their community,” said Thompson. Side Lot sales are good for homeowners’ property values, and property taxes on Side Lots help support City services that benefit our communities.
Are there other ways to buy land from the DLBA?
The DLBA also has a Neighborhood Lot program that sells vacant lots to Detroit homeowners living within 500 feet of the lot. Neighborhood Lots cost $250 and can be purchased on buildingdetroit.org. This program launched in October 2020 to respond to resident demand for greater access to vacant lots in their communities that either did not qualify as Side Lots because there were no adjacent neighbors or went unsold as Side Lots. So far, the DLBA has sold more than 460 Neighborhood Lots. Eligibility requirements for buyers include:
Must have a Principal Residence Exception (PRE) for their home, within 500 feet of the Neighborhood Lot
Receive an endorsement for a registered block club, community group, or Department of Neighborhoods District Manager or Deputy Manager
Be current on property taxes of in compliance with a tax payment plan
No outstanding blight tickets
$250 payment and completed application
The DLBA also offers Oversized Lot, Infill Housing Lot, Accessory Structure Lots, Homestead Lots, and a project portal for properties that are not currently listed for sale. For more information about all Land Reuse programs, visit https://buildingdetroit.org/land-reuse-programs.
For more information and to view current property listings, visit buildingdetroit.org.