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Detroit — After a fire destroyed the house next door, Elizabeth Hegedus spent an unsuccessful five years trying to purchase the vacant lot.

She was about to give up hope.

But in September, Hegedus got a postcard in the mail from the Detroit Land Bank Authority informing her of a new program offering neighbors a chance to buy side lots for $100. She called the next day.

"The process was so simple," said Hegedus, who now owns the lot and plans to transform it into a garden with evergreen trees, shrubbery and flowers. "We are so happy that we got this lot. I love this neighborhood and would never live any place else."

Hegedus' story was shared Wednesday at a news conference where Mayor Mike Duggan touted a pilot program to accelerate side lot sales that's launching next month in two City Council districts.

Duggan said the "Side Lot Sale Fairs" will be held on Dec. 6 in Districts 6 and 7. City Council District 6 encompasses a portion of downtown, Corktown, southwest Detroit and part of Wayne State. District 7 is made up of industrial pockets and neighborhoods including Warrendale, Petoskey and Russell Woods.

The fairs will be held in both of the districts, allowing residents to purchase the vacant lots and walk away with a deed transfer.

"Detroit owns way too much property in this city," Duggan said. "Instead of having overgrown lots filled with garbage, we want to have beautiful fenced lot maintained by the neighbors. ... People can do a whole lot better job of taking care of the lot next door than City Hall can."

Duggan said that the effort is incorporated in the 10-point blight plan outlined during his mayoral campaign. The mayor says he intends to put out a plan on community property use after the first of the year.

There are about 1,000 side lots available in each of the two districts. Sales in the remaining five council districts are anticipated next year, he said.

To qualify, residents must own the neighboring home and be current on their tax bills or enrolled in a payment plan. Officials will be on hand at the fairs to handle any outstanding tax payments or title issues.

In September, Detroit City Council unanimously approved the transfer of about 10,000 vacant city-owned parcels to the land bank.

The council first rejected an earlier request from the land bank that would have transferred 39,000 parcels. Members at the time expressed concern about the success of the side lot initiative.

Duggan says he's confident the pilot program will yield positive results and that the council will later sign off on a transfer of the remaining 30,000 parcels.

Officials estimate that the average annual property tax on a side lot will be around $48. Neighbors who have been maintaining a side lot will be able to put a hold on it Dec. 1 to guarantee the purchase.

District 7 Council Member Gabe Leland said he supports and is promoting the program.

"I've been telling all Detroiters looking to get a piece of the pie, this is your opportunity," he said.

For more information on the side lots available for purchase, visit buildingdetroit.org.

CFerretti@detroitnews.com

Side lot fairs on Dec. 6

District 6: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at La Terraza restaurant, 8445 W. Vernor in Southwest Detroit

District 7: 2-5 p.m. at Don Bosco Hall, 19321 West Chicago on Detroit's west side

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