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What could you with a $50.00 urban lot  RSS feed

 
William Bronson
Posts: 1417
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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I thought i had gotten a great deal on  my urban lot,but it turn a out there are much better deals out there

Once a year my county holds a sale of land confiscated for non-paymemt of taxes.
At this one sale,the lowest accepted bid is $50.00.
Many lots,ranging from about  25x100 to 75x 125 in size,go unsold.

These are lots in the worst parts of town,not even the urban core,but mostly on.my own Price Hill
Almost all of them had houses sitting on them at one point. While no longer standing, these structures are still present.
Even if they weren't bulldozed into their own basements, decades of lead and asbestos abide in the soil.

These are the reasons the lots go unsold at practically nothing.

But I want to turn waste into surplus.
Thus I'm soliciting ideas here.

I'll lead off with one I think of as the Christmas n' Easter model.
1.Choose a flat lot. Have it covered in wood chips,1.5-2' deep.
2. Fence the lot(perhaps the biggest expense)
3.Plant "Christmas trees" .Let them grow for a year at least. Keep them away from the fence,we don't want to enable escapes.
4. Set up an eggmobile with auto everything feeding,watering,door opening/closing
5. Collect egas and check on chooks once per day.
6. Harvest the top of the Christmas trees,leaving a foot or two for them to grow back from.

That's it. Rather monoculturey but better than a feild of weeds and debris,I think.

 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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30 years ago, I was quite enamored with the $25 to $100 building lots available in Niagara Falls New York and neighboring towns. I examined all sorts of scenarios, and in the end determined that the tax on this land was more than any benefit I could receive from it. If you go to a place like Cleveland, which has thousands and thousands of empty lots, it would be necessary to get quite a lot of them together, to make any sort of farm.

I'll assume that you are looking at these in rather poor areas. I can't imagine Christmas trees growing to the point of harvest without them being broken, stolen or burned.

If someone is already living in one of those neighborhoods, I think it makes total sense to buy all of the lots surrounding your house. Before doing something like this, I would want to make an agreement with the city, that this will now be a small urban farm, and it needs to be taxed as such. You wouldn't want to be paying tax as though there were half a dozen houses on your property.

The American Rust Belt, is filled with opportunities to buy small chunks of land for almost nothing. The real cost, is the time and resources put in, and the taxes.

Google Will Allen. He started an urban farm in a poor area, and has done well with it.
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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As Dale said, the trees will be ruined, and I don't think you'll have a single chicken left after the first night.
 
stephen lowe
Posts: 39
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I have a friend who runs an urban farm in a terrible neighborhood in Detroit. He owns two lots, including the one his house is on. And farms another 11 or 12 lots that he looked into and found that either banks owned or out of state real estate speculators owned, all are currently default on taxes. He has had some issues with people cutting across his fields but simply by engaging the neighbors and the people he sees on the street while he's working he has had little to no theft or vandalism. I would stick with your Christmas tree plan (although I think you'll need more than one year to grow saleable trees) and maybe even find some neighborhood kids to work with you on harvest.  Also, taxes are usually based on sale value, so if you buy a houseless lot for 50$ your taxes should be stupid low. You might be expected to pay some portion of back taxes, but I would look into that.
 
Deb Rebel
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Here when lots go up for taxes, they list everything due that is being carried on the sale. Average price for a lot with three years of back taxes, and all fees, is around $450 for a 25'x125' lot. About $300 is the fees. Some can go higher, a lot higher, as they will often auction everything after a few weeks of publish in paper with the breakdowns. We have a few that had back personal taxes tacked on and there is one set of four lots downtown that have a lien of $32k sitting on them because an old hotel burned and that was the cleanup cost borne by the city, the woman that owned it didn't pay and died shortly afterwards with no estate to speak of. So. Look into the background first at city hall on what's there. That one will have the lien sit there forever so either someone will have to pay that to buy $600 worth of lots or the city will finally have to write that one off.

We have several small (600 sq ft or so) houses sitting on a lot that has an estate lien on it of $30-50k and the house is falling in and the lienholder refuses to let it go. So they will sit there in limbo. Eventually the lot will be cleared and whoever is next to it will get some free lawn for taking care of it. There's quite a few of those in town too.

In Detroit they bulldozed whole blocks and absentee landlords snapped up tons of homes on lots for about $500 each--and if they haven't been vandalized (plumbing and wiring ripped out for the copper) they try to rent them.

If you can get zoning changed that is good. I can say here I have one parcel that's stitched into my ranchette, a single lot, and I pay $4 a year property tax on it as it's unimproved. And not likely to ever be improved (a dwelling erected on it). We're quite rural. Bigger urban is proportionally more taxes. I used to live big urban and had 1/5 an acre with house and garage, and the taxes on that, six weeks; would be what I pay here for three houses, a shop, a garage, and two acres of land a YEAR. Near us is a smaller town that is in some pretty land (buttes and cedar) and has lots go for very cheap and they are close to being offgrid up there. You want homestead material, it's here.

The issue is for that $50 lot, what are the taxes, what could be the liens, and will your stuff still be there tomorrow.

Friends I had that came in every winter to the same parking lot corner to sell Christmas trees from a few states away, bring in a few semi loads of fresh cut, said it takes 5-6 years to grow the average live tree. You cut the top off, that tree won't grow the same again. They put them in the fields, they shear them into shape a few times, and they cut them off at the ground to harvest. Then deal with stumps and plant more. They will let a few go another year or so to get the nice BIG trees but most trees for sale that are person high are about 5 years old. In a 25' wide lot you will get 4 rows... and have to leave them for five years. And water them and maintain them. There are urban rats and feral strays, even fencing your plot, your chance of keeping your livestock with minimal look in and care is low.
 
Mark Tudor
Posts: 37
Location: SoCal USA
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I grew up in Cincy, and a lot in Price Hill will be empty of anything of value really fast if you aren't sitting there 24/7 with a weapon to defend it. Animals will be taken or killed for sure, and if you grow plants like you said you have to deal with bad or even toxic soil conditions.

Everyone with money is moving out of the city limits and into the burbs it seems. When I grew up a few miles east of Milford, it was all farm land and woods. When I last drove through there about 15 years ago, it's all packed subdivisions now. Meanwhile Cincy incorporated saw something like 10-15% population drop over the last 10 year census.

So while land is getting cheaper, your neighbors are worse off and more motivated to take what they can to get by. Price Hill is one of the worst spots in town, I recall seeing houses for sale there for $10-15K that weren't selling.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1417
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
18
forest garden trees urban
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If I did not already have some experience with raising food on a haven't lot in this very neiborhood, I would be more pessimistic.
My poor neiborhood is unambitious to say the least.
Crime here is opportunistic. Everybody wants the low hanging fruit.
I've had people steal tomatoes out of my front yard, yet leave the tools on the front porch alone.
My lot was planted with fruit trees before it was fenced,but my main issue was dog poop and trash that was left from partying that I has to clean up.
Again, tools left in an unlocked box were undisturbed.
Hand tools=work,not easy money.

Very early on our activities there attracted the attention of some the brightest kids on the street.
We became fast friends and they and their people became guardians of our place.
That family dissolved, which is real damned shame, but our connections to the street have not.
It helps that I have been accomadating of my neighbors on either side, not pushing my fences up against the property line on one side, and being certain to let light into the basement man cave on the other.

The trees are probably safe as long as they are out of sight and locked up.
I'm leaning towards privacy fabric on top of  chain link.
If they have the gumption to acquire a bolt cutter ,or jump the fence, and then wreck or steal the trees, well they are welcome to them.
I'll write it off as a loss.
The impoverished of my neighborhood hardly know what to do with a fresh vegetable, much less a live chicken.

I'm starting to realise that crushing poverty can work in favor of me as a small holder as much as it does for land lords­čśĽ

Anyway, the point is that I'm pretty sure the motivated types wouldn't bother with chickens and trees,seeing how dealing drugs, sticking up illegal immigrants,and pimping out women are still going concerns­čśö


The nice thing about the once a year sale is that it's the only time you can shake off the back taxes.
The sales the rest of the year require a minimum bid of the back taxes, plus the court fees,etc.


 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
Posts: 6704
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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When I determined that the lots in Niagara Falls were not worth buying, I went down to City Hall and arranged for tax relief on all of the lots adjoining a property, where a man was running a small Market Garden. He was in his sixties, and they agreed to give him 25 years tax free, with the stipulation that he fence the lots and keep them free of garbage. For about $150, he got to enlarge his growing space by five times.

Along with the basic property tax, you want to make sure that all other ongoing charges are stopped. You don't want to find that you are paying for unused sewer hookups, water spigots, or any other thing, that is attached to a property when there is a house on it. In many areas, all of this stuff is rolled into the property tax, but there are some places that charge for things individually.

You want a clean slate. If these lots are being bought from the city or a lender that was defaulted on, try to get them to bear the cost of an environmental assessment. A $50 lot, that has a $50,000 liability of a buried oil tank that has leaked, can become an absolute nightmare. You need to have an absolute clean bill of Financial Health, going forward into the future. Surface garbage is the least of your worries with this type of land. Try to find out what it was used for in the past. Hopefully it was just used for housing. Many industrial processes pollute the land permanently. Around here, it generally cost about $200 a ton to get rid of contaminated soil, then there is ongoing monitoring. It's not uncommon for someone to spend $1,000,000 cleaning up a former service station site.
 
Deb Rebel
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William Bronson wrote:
The nice thing about the once a year sale is that it's the only time you can shake off the back taxes.
The sales the rest of the year require a minimum bid of the back taxes, plus the court fees,etc.



Not here. The minimum bid even in the auctions here is the entire back due plus fees plus any liens. So minimum bid on a 25'x125' lot here is just shy of $300 and often is $500-600. If nobody else wants it and you say you'll take the bid, you get it 'at cost'. We've had a few get into some vicious bidding wars. And that one, the lots are being sold as one unit (4 25'x125' lots) with the $32k cleanup fee from the hotel (three story brick) that burned that sat on it. It gets read every auction, with the amount due, all back taxes, all fees, etc, and nobody takes the bid. If a property doesn't sell and you want it at another time, you can walk in with cash or certified bank check and buy it for all accrued.

Some places auction for whatever and will waive the back fees and taxes. Some don't.

We also have that they will sell the back due taxes as a tax lien, the first year they become due and not paid. You can go in and buy that lien. They will hold the property for three years, and if you go in and pay the back and buy the tax lien for all of the three years, when it would get to auction, you can challenge then to claim the property through the liens you hold. If nobody contests it, you get the property for the challenge fee. If someone wants to contest, they auction just like it was a regular forfeit property but all your liens are credited. If someone else takes it, you get all you paid plus interest (as part of the back the eventual buyer pays for).

Here when they hold the auctions, they try to process your title within minutes of completion of the auction. They have never had an issue but they try to conclude the business as quickly as possible. You are allowed to leave the courthouse to visit one of the two banks (across street, both of them) to get the fundage.

I have gone to more than a few of these with intent and the cash in my pocket. Usually what I want gets bid out of reach quickly. Then I see some stuff in the outlying small towns that go for a song because nobody else wants those fifteen lots...

So back to topic. If you can get a forgiven cleared 'whatever they can get' lot, it depends quite a bit on the neighborhood, what utilities might even be close, is it next to you or not, what will the taxes be on it, what's on it, what's been done to it in the past (has someone dumped antifreeze on it for the last 20 years?) and so on. To the success stories, cheers.

A related, we visit a home center in a poorer small homes urban neighborhood in another town. The yard decorations and such are locked up tight. In the parking lot are pallets of mulch, plant dirt, peat moss, etc. We asked. The owner said, they'd clean all the pricy decorative stuff out of here in a heartbeat, but that palleted stuff? That's W-O-R-K. That stuff gets left alone! 
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1417
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
18
forest garden trees urban
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Great posts on the hazards of such property.
The potential toxins are an issue,but not something that can't be dealt with,even if it means growing entirely in containers.
The potential of getting stuck with an expensive legal burden is so far the most off putting issues.
Learning how to be held harmless in this is important.

Supposing the property is hand, and minimally toxic,what are some ideas for creating a gain from the land?

I would love a lot filled with bamboo.
Containing it for future generations would require serious infrastructure.
Planting in raised beds and/or wrenching around the bamboo helps reveal runners for pruning, but I'm not sure what could contain bamboo with zero maintenace.
Perhaps it could be grown in large sub irrigated planters(wicking beds in a pot).
There are some bamboo native to the region,but they are slow growing.
Willow is another plant,not as bad perhaps, that I would like to have access to in quantity.
Willow as fencing? Osage Ornge as fencing?
No, fruits,inedible or otherwise would invite unwelcome attention if they went ungathered on the outside of the fence.

Any other ideas?











 
Deb Rebel
garden master
Posts: 1479
Location: Zone 6b
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I'm told if you can dig down a good two feet or more and put up a really impenetrable barrier you can contain bamboo (if you are growing runner not clumping it can go over the top though so make sure that goes up a ways too). Bamboo has some pretty serious power to get through stuff and some varieties are hardy to about zone four, so it would be possible to have a lot full.

One urban I lived had sand down about three feet beyond the clay and the surface dressing... and if you wanted you could drop a sand point about 30' and have a well. About a mile away was an old drycleaners that had dumped chemicals in a trench for about 30 years (50's to the 80's) and was caught about it when they shut down and someone tested the sand point wells and found the contamination. So, you could water your lawn with it but no more taps were allowed as it was considered contaminated. They did do abatement, dug out the trench and the worst of the saturated soil was replaced but, it was pretty much a forever going to be there issue. (and most of our neighborhood had been put in off city services that showed up later, so most of the houses in that development had a well. We had like the LAST house built (1960) and so it didn't have a well. They got around the water rationing that started to happen before we moved, if they tapped their well for lawns. So guess what? They pulled the water level down and some of the wells went dry...)

Willow might be good, but usually willow loves water (and is a great one for dealing with some forms of greywater). Want to get into basketweaving from natural materials?
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 445
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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The Urban Farming Guys are in Kansas City,MO. They have Videos online and a Facebook page. I think they are doing something similar on a larger scale.

I don't think trees will ever pay the taxes. Maybe vegetables in raised beds?
 
Mark Tudor
Posts: 37
Location: SoCal USA
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Honeysuckle I think is what my Northside property had all over it, you could probably weave that into a decent fence/barrier without needing a lot of water like willow, and without the thorns of osage orange that could scratch a neighbor and cause conflict. Probably some other hedge-friendly varieties that would work too.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Try to find a way for them to pay you to take these lots. There are probably urban renewal grants, get rid of the garbage grants, and Back To Nature grants. I don't know what they might be called. There are people who are hired to ride an office chair and think of ways to spend government money.

You might want to check out what is available at the state and federal level. Cities where building lots sell for $50, don't usually have a spare nickel.
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