South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Free wills and assistance buying side yards is available on Hilltop


Purchasing a vacant city-owned lot on parts of the Hilltop is getting a little easier, at least in the wallet.

The Hilltop Alliance has expanded its program to Side Yard Program to include: Allentown, Arlington, Beltzhoover, Knoxville and Mt. Oliver City. The program will pay up to half the cost of buying a vacant city-owned lot by a qualified owner through the city’s Side Yard Sales Program.

Tim Dolan, program manager at the Alliance, said there was interest in the program across the Hilltop after it was begun in Beltzhoover. To qualify for the city program, and the Alliance’s partner program, a homeowner must be up-to-date on their taxes, have no code violations on their home and be adjacent or within two properties of the vacant lot.

Vacant lots across the street from the homeowner do not qualify for the program.

Minimum costs to purchase a side yard through the city program are $401. The Alliance will partially reimburse homeowners the costs, up to $250.

During its work in the Hilltop, the Alliance learned many of the vacant properties were the result of a homeowner dying without having a designated heir. The home became tax delinquent, fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished by the city.

Many of the vacant lots became overgrown and attracted litter and debris.

Mr. Dolan explains not every lot is eligible. The city puts limits on the size of lots that can be part of the program. Additionally, once purchased, homeowners are not permitted to build a house or garage on the property.

They’re supposed to be for side yards, Mr. Dolan said.

Purchasing the side yard isn’t a quick remedy. The process can take up to 18 months and the home owner is not permitted to make improvements until they own the side yard.

Councilman Kraus’ satellite offices in Arlington and South Side are able to assist homeowners with the process of purchasing the side yards. To contact the satellite office for hours and location, call 412-689-1130.

Homeowners considering participating in the Side Yard Program, can check to see if the vacant lot next to them is owned by the city by checking the Allegheny County Real Estate website: visit, click on Live and Real Estate. Those without internet access may call Mr. Dolan at 412-586-5807 with the address of the property and he will look it up for them.

More information about the City of Pittsburgh Side Yard Sales Program is available on the City of Pittsburgh website under Department of Finance, Real Estate.

The Hilltop Alliance’s free wills program is available to residents in the same Hilltop neighborhoods as the side yard assistance program, but with the addition of Mt. Oliver Borough residents.

Mr. Dolan explained the lack of wills and the inability to locate an heir after a homeowner has died has led to abandoned and neglected properties in the neighborhoods.

Residents must be at least 50 years of age, live in Allentown, Arlington, Beltzhoover, Knoxville, Mt. Oliver City or Mt. Oliver Borough, and have their name on the deed to the property to be eligible. The process with an attorney is confidential and the Alliance doesn’t have a say in what is put into the will.

Mr. Dolan said there is a one-page application for the free will program and that application along with a check list is available on the Alliance’s website,

He said funding for both the wills and side yard program is provided through a grant from the PNC Foundation. Although there isn’t a defined number of wills and side yards the Alliance can help with, funding is limited.

For more information about either of the programs, contact Mr. Dolan at 412-586-5807.


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