1,000 and counting: Dayton’s home fixer-upper program grows

A city of Dayton program designed to let residents acquire vacant lots to turn into sideyards has grown into a popular way for private investors and home-seekers to obtain cheap property.

The Lot Links program, started in 2008, wipes away delinquent taxes on abandoned and distressed properties that people apply for and pledge to rehab or, in the case of vacant lots, turn into a sideyards or gardens.

The main appeal of the program is that homes and properties can be purchased for cheap. In 2015, the average costs to applicants was less than $1,900.

Of the roughly 1,000 properties transferred through Lot Links, 661 were intended for housing development, 264 were intended for use as sideyards and 51 were for commercial developments, said Shelley Dickstein, Dayton city manager.

Years ago, “we thought it was amazing that people would even want a vacant piece of land, much less structures,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “Obviously the program has morphed into something much larger than we imagined in 2008.”

RELATED: City program takes heat as homes stay vacant

By mid-July, the city of Dayton has just about reached the milestone of transferring ownership of 1,000 vacant, tax-delinquent properties to private users through its Lot Links program.

Through the program, people can apply to acquire abandoned properties that are least two years delinquent on their taxes and that do not have a tax lien sold, a tax payment contract or that are already in tax foreclosure.

Applicants must pay a deposit and the foreclosure costs, which in recent years on average cost less than $1,900.

Montgomery County initiates the tax foreclosure process, which involves the prosecutor’s office filing a foreclosure complaint.

The city takes ownership of the properties after they are scrubbed clean of tax liens and back taxes and then transfers them to applicants. The process takes about 16 months.

When it started, the program only allowed people to purchase tax-delinquent vacant lots — not properties with structures on them, Dickstein said.

But the program was modified in 2011 to include properties with houses and commercial buildings. Since then, the program’s popularity has soared, and city staff have processed 2,300 applications, officials said.

Applications for Lot Links properties rose to 358 last year, up 40 percent from 2013.

RELATED: Thousands of vacant lots available

Last year, about eight in 10 Lot Links applications sought properties with structures on them.

Many people use the program rehab languishing structures to create new rental housing. Many others use Lot Links to try to acquire vacant homes to live in.

Here’s some useful stats about Lot Links in 2016

Share of applications for: lots with structures (80%), vacant lots (20%)

Number of applications received: 358

Number of Lot Links foreclosure cases filed: 103

Increase in applications since 2013: +41%

Decrease in foreclosure cases filed compared to 2015: -61%

Percentage of applicants from: Dayton (75%); nearby city (24%); out of state: (less than 1%)

Average cost of foreclosure action: $1,895

Why are applicants acquiring the property: To use vacant lot for yard expansion (22%); to rehab structure to live in (30%); to rehab the structure to sell or rent (47%)

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