Neighbors can buy open lots in Heidelberg

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Heidelberg homeowners have the opportunity to purchase vacant lots bordering their properties free and clear of back taxes through an Allegheny County Department of Economic Development program.

The county waives the back taxes and liens and picks up most of the closing costs.

Heidelberg manager Joe Kauer said the borough is accepting applications until July 15 to buy the lots. He said several residents have taken advantage of the program in prior years and have had success with it.

Although the lots are usually too small to construct a house, residents have used the lots to expand their yards or to build additions to their houses, Mr. Kauer said.

"The county finds attorneys to do the legal work pro bono so the resident can buy the lot at its assessed value," he said.

That results in significant savings for the buyers, who can acquire the lot free of back taxes and liens, paying just the appraised value of the property, which is usually about $3,000.

To qualify:

• The lot must be less than a half acre.

• If there is a vacant structure on the lot, it must be classified as unsafe by the borough.

• The property must be tax delinquent for at least three years.

• The lot must be adjoining to the buyer's primary residence.

The buyer must pay the full appraised value, make a good faith deposit of $150, and pay reduced closing costs of about $300.

Heidelberg borough solicitor Michael Kaleugher said the program is a very good deal for homeowners who live next door to tax-delinquent vacant lots.

"An important requirement though," he said, "is that the buyer must be current on all borough, county and school taxes."

Applications for the program are available at the borough building on East Railroad Street during regular business hours.

More than 30 municipalities in Allegheny County participate in the vacant lot recovery program.


Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer:


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