My husband, the alien, and I have been trying to buy vacant lots that belong to the city of Philadelphia. We want to build a one-story home because my husband is having trouble climbing stairs. Philly is a city of row houses and over 40,000 vacant lots. The city has created a map of these lots with “for sale” signs on a good fraction of them. We only want to build one home. We have been requesting to purchase lots that have “for sale” signs. Every time we request one, we are told that “the council president has other plans for that lot.” .
After sending about 30 such requests, we received this note from the council president’s person in charge of real estate:
“I wanted to let you know that I have been receiving your requests. The lots in the neighborhoods you are considering (such as Brewerytown, Francisville, West Poplar, Ludlow, North Central) are on “hold” pending or have been identified as part of other larger community development plans and/or the Council President’s affordable/workforce housing initiative. Until these initiatives/plans are finalized, I am afraid I won’t be able to move forward on any of these requests.”
One of the lots we requested and were denied has now been removed from the map of city owned vacant lots. To me, this indicates that this lot was sold to someone else and is now somebody’s private property. I conclude that there are rules for who can buy city owned vacant lots. But I have no access to these rules.
There is also a map of privately owned vacant lots. I used Google Earth to look at some of these lots. About half of them have buildings in progress. This morning, I biked out to look at one that appeared empty on Google Earth, and the owner is in the process of building. This map is out-of-date.
A friend suggested I find an abandoned dilapidated warehouse, buy that, destroy it, and then build. That probably costs a lot more than buying a vacant lot. Meanwhile, I can keep looking at the privately owned vacant lots, find one that is really vacant, find the owner, and offer to buy it. This is not going to be simple.