"Mow to Own" programs enlist local residents who wish to acquire vacant, typically city-owned lots to care for lots in exchange for eventual ownership of the lot. These programs typically most effective in cities with a considerable number of vacant lots and low demand.
Benefits & Problems Addressed
Enhanced property values: Unkempt lots tend to drive down surrounding property values.
Public health: Maintenance eliminates many pest and disease infestation hazards when trash, standing water and vermin are managed.
Reduced log of vacant or city-owned lots: These programs transfer lots that are not on tax rolls to owners.
Tips & Techniques
Getting started: Develop and post maps of vacant and city-owned properties to see if there are patterns. The best candidates are (1) lots adjacent to existing houses, (2) lots that have been city-owned for a lengthy period of time, and (3) clusters that make maintenance easy.
Program Elements: (1) Lot eligibility requirements, (2) Maps of eligible lots available to the public, (3) Applicant requirements (e.g., up to date on taxes on primary property, lot adjacency), (4) Maintenance requirements and duration, (5) Administration, inspection & enforcement schedules.
Land transfer: Determine if the ownership is conveyed at the beginning of the program or only after a period of successful maintenance. Some programs will determine land transfer around the market value of the lot, for example, early transfer for a cash down payment or maintenance duration equal to the lot's value.
Eligibility: Most programs give first choice to an adjacent landowner, but cities can also work with non-profit organizations, land banks, stormwater management organizations, and local food groups.
Hot Buttons: Programs can be viewed as land give-aways. Cities need to be prepared to reclaim properties if maintenance obligations unmet. Cities may or may not supply title insurance, though this can be an important investment for the landowner of seized lots.
Mow To Own Program - Saint Louis, MO US