Newark’s government has a different idea for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.
The city sold 100 lots at $1,000 each to any couple (of any sexual orientation) who was willing to build and live in a home on the land. Couples were limited to buying one lot and expected to make a $500 down payment with an additional $500 at closing. Couples must also be willing to live in the property for 5 years. The “or else” details are worked out, and could be fines or the city reclaiming the property.
On nearby properties with houses on them, the land is assessed at about $21,000, according to state tax maps.
The lots, mostly in the South, Central and West Wards, were sold at a first-come, first-serve basis. The special ran from 9 a.m. until noon in City Hall, with people even lining up at 5 a.m.
Buyers were responsible for all closing costs, and must submit a City Planning Board approved site plan to close on the property. Couples must also have had proof that they can cover the cost of construction on the property, and must complete that construction within 18 months of closing on the land.
The rules of the sales specifically prohibit the land from being sold to developers or investors.
The homes in the neighborhood are side-by-side, all wood-framed with peaked roofs.
It remains an immigrant city, with a growing Hispanic population. One-third of the city’s 277,000 people are Hispanic, according to the 2010 census, up from 25 percent in 1990.
The holiday sale is one of several attempts the city has made to get rid of its excess land over the last few months. Last year, the city held several auctions of both abandoned homes and vacant lots.
The idea of the sale is to get more home-owning families into neighborhoods and put belly-up properties back on the tax rolls. The plan removes the eyesore of urban blight and fills the city with ownership, hope and optimism.
The Newark vacant lot program is part of an urban trend of cheap sales in exchange for new development. In Chicago, land was sold to low-income housing developers for $1. In Indianapolis and Baltimore, homeowners could buy blighted houses for $1.
The Newark initiative was the idea of Baye Adofo-Wilson, the deputy mayor for economic and housing development.
The average residential property taxes in Newark are $5,365. In the some of the areas where lots are for sale, they are lower. But even using an average of $4,000 for the 1,000 now-vacant lots will bring the city $400,000 in yearly tax revenue once they are improved and $2 million over five years.
Newark seems to be heading in the right direction.
What do you think? Is this a good idea for the city? Is it fair to those who bought their homes at full value?