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Mow to Own announcement

Mayor Francis Slay stands on vacant property on Shulte Avenue in St. Louis to announce "mow to own" program

ST. LOUIS • City residents have a chance to get free land.

The city, struggling to maintain thousands of vacant properties, has begun a new program where neighbors can take ownership of adjacent properties if they agree to maintain them.

The program, called “Mow to Own,” allows city residents to take immediate ownership of city-owned vacant properties if they agree to continually maintain the property.

Eligible residents will be required to pay a $125 title transfer fee. The program is limited to residents who own property adjacent to the abandoned properties.

A lien will be placed on the property for 24 months. After that, the land will be released if the new owner has taken care of the property.

The new owner also gets the property tax bill.

About 4,000 small lots citywide are eligible for the program.

The city is struggling to perform basic maintenance on abandoned properties.

“Hopefully this will free up more money for the city,” said Ward 27 Alderman Chris Carter.

The city spends $1 million every year to mow grass on vacant land.

Carter said his ward alone has 527 vacant lots. He said about 400 of them will be eligible for the program.

Carter stood on a vacant lot in north St. Louis with fellow alderman Cara Spencer, a champion of the program, and Mayor Francis Slay.

“Many of the lots eligible under Mow to Own are small enough to be considered someone’s side yard, yet they are owned by the city,” said Mayor Francis Slay. “We know that there are a lot of good neighbors who are anxious to see these lots put back to productive reuse. In return, they will come off the city’s mowing list and go back onto the tax rolls.”

Eltoreon Hawkins is one of the city’s first residents to participate in the program. He took ownership of a small vacant lot next to his house in the 5900 block of Shulte Avenue.

“This will just cut back on the blight in the neighborhood tremendously,” Hawkins said.

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Nicholas J.C. Pistor is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.