Newark Plots Sweet Valentine Deals With $1,000 Land Sales

New Jersey’s largest city has a Valentine’s Day wish: Be my landowner.

Newark City Hall is offering to sell 100 vacant parcels of city-owned land on Saturday in a Valentine’s Day special that is open only to people in a relationship. The most appealing part of the properties up for grabs could be the sales price: $1,000 a lot.

“For young families trying to find a place to put down roots, we want to give this place as an option,” said Baye Adofo-Wilson, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, who came up with the sale idea. “We want them to know Newark is welcoming,”

Officials said the city wanted to remove vacant eyesores and make them into taxable properties, helping its tax base and infrastructure. And new residents would put more eyes and ears in neighborhoods, they said.

Couples aren’t required to be married nor do they need to be residents of the city to buy. But prospective owners must agree to build a home on the lot and then live in the city. Sales will be made on a first come-first served basis.

Terms of the holiday sale and locations of the available lots were announced Monday by the city. An online advertisement played up the Valentine’s Day theme, showing a heart cupped in a person’s hand.

Most properties up for sale are clustered in the South and West wards with a smattering in the North Ward. The sale is part of a new initiative by Mayor Ras J. Baraka to encourage city employees and teachers to buy homes in certain neighborhoods in the South and West wards.

Newark resident Karissa Brand said she and her husband, Carlos Figueroa, a contractor, see one property where they could build a house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms for themselves and their two children.

“I know people have biases about Newark,” said Ms. Brand, who grew up in the city. “But these lots are usually $20,000. For $1,000, it’s a steal.”

Lots are limited to one a couple. The offer isn’t open to developers, investors or some city employees. The Newark Council must approve all sales.

The sale begins at 9 a.m. at City Hall. Buyers must make a $500 down payment and pay the balance on closing.

After closing on the property, buyers must complete a home on the lot within 18 months. After they receive a certificate of occupancy, buyers must live on the property for five years.

Some past land sales in Newark have been fraught with corruption and nepotism. In 2008, former Mayor Sharpe James was found guilty of fraud for contriving to have his mistress buy several city lots in a rigged land sale.

Mr. Adofo-Wilson said city lawyers had examined procedures for the Valentine’s Day offer to make sure the sale process was sound and legal.

Lenny Correa, an artist and educator who lives in Newark, said he is mulling whether to buy a lot with his partner, Jamie Bruno, who is also an artist. “The idea is super interesting. Anybody would be interested,” Mr. Correa said, adding, “I see myself being here for a while.”

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