MT. VERNON, IL (KFVS) - Residents of Mt. Vernon, Illinois will soon be able to turn the "ugly" lot next door into their new backyard - and all that person has to do is remove the "ugly" from the property.
Mt. Vernon's new "Mow to Own" program aims to increase curb appeal, according to Assistant to the City Manager Nathan Mckenna.
"We are looking to get them back out to the public, and hopefully improving neighborhoods," McKenna said. "Most of the homes are in older neighborhoods, and are just too old and damaged to fix."
In recent years, the city has averaged around 30 property demolitions per year.
As a result, there are 87 "surplus" lots around Mt. Vernon which city workers are now charged with maintaining.
"Our mow crew of five spends most of their time mowing these properties, so it's very easy to fall behind," McKenna said. "And it's a waste of money when you think that the lots could otherwise be put to good use."
Although census data shows the city is technically growing, McKenna said some neighborhoods are seeing more and more vacant properties due to population shifts.
Instead of waiting for the properties to be sold at about $500 per lot - which McKenna said hasn't garnered much interest since 2015 - the city will reward residents who take over upkeep with a deed of ownership.
The new owners will then be free to do whatever they please to the new property, from building a new garage or house to giving the kids more room to play.
To be eligible, a person must live in a property adjacent or next door to one of the listed lots.
Ownership is then transferred from the city after the person takes care of the lot for at least two years and has met a list of qualifications, which you can find to the left of this story.
The program is expected to go into effect after the next city council meeting on July 19.