SHARON, Pa. (WKBN) – There are 500 vacant lots in Sharon and a program called Lots to Love is working to make sure they’re maintained.
Two hundred are now in the program, 28 of which have been transferred to private owners with 16 more coming this month. It’s a small percentage, but it’s a start.
“We’re going to have a few picnic tables in this area,” said Christina Campbell, supervisor of Lots to Love.
Campbell and Lori Johnson of the Community Action Partnership of Mercer County walked us through a vacant lot in Sharon’s West Hill neighborhood called Serenity Park. It’s part of the Lots to Love program.
“We acquire vacant lots after blighted houses have been taken down and we acquire them through the private tax sale,” Campbell said.
“I love this program because it takes a piece of blighted property and our first priority is to make it part of a family home,” Johnson said.
“So this is a vacant lot that is now owned by Heriberto Muniz. He purchased it from us,” Campbell said.
A mile and a half away on Fourth Avenue is another lot that has been transferred and a second that’s about to be. Community Action Partnership does the legal work to obtain them and then sells them to adjacent property owners for $500.
Campbell: “They just have to agree to maintain them according to Sharon’s code enforcement and they have to pay the yearly taxes on the property.”
Reporter Stan Boney: “Can he sell them?”
Campbell: “If he decided to move and he wanted to sell his house and the two lots, yes.”
Five blocks from Fourth, at Meek Street and Ormond Avenue, a tree limb archway marks another feature of Lots to Love: an adopted lot.
“Some of the lots that the homeowners don’t want, we keep under the redevelopment ownership and we allow organizations or individuals to adopt them. So, they don’t pay anything for them,” Campbell said.
Artist Walter Herman adopted what is called the Sculpture Garden, and artists painted murals on the adjacent building.
Taking care of vacant lots is good for now, but Johnson has bigger plans.
“I would like to see us get to a point where we can find funding and financing to put a home back and sell it at a low cost to a low-income family and let them have the sense of homeownership,” Johnson said.
The Lots to Love program so far has been funded through $220,000 in grants from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Association. FNB banks have also helped out.
People can also sponsor a lot, where they agree to maintain it and get paid.