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Lackawanna Land Bank Marks Milestone

SCRANTON, Pa. — Another vacant property in Scranton is back on the tax rolls, and the Lackawanna County Land Bank program celebrated a milestone. The vaca...

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Another vacant property in Scranton is back on the tax rolls, and the Lackawanna County Land Bank program celebrated a milestone.

The vacant lot on Alder Street in Scranton doesn't look like much now, but its new owner plans to build a home and maybe a business there.

This is the 125th property sold through the Lackawanna Land Bank program.

Florita and Alvaro Lopez live in New York City but have been wanting to join their family here in Scranton's south side. They finally found an opportunity too good to pass up -- a piece of land along Alder Street for just $500.

"I just called my son yesterday. He's in the Marines, and I said, 'I found a place in Scranton for $500,' and he said, 'you're kidding me!''' Alvaro Lopez said.

The Lopezes plan to build a family home here and hope to start a bakery. They say the Lackawanna Land Bank made it possible.

The land bank sells vacant tax-delinquent properties at a discounted rate. This one is the program's 125th sale in the past three years.

"It's a milestone that we reached. We reached 100 in just three years, and I think it's a great accomplishment. People have come forward. If these properties were still on the repository list, they'd still be sitting here if it wasn't for the land bank," Ralph Pappas said.

Lackawanna County started the program in 2016 with a vacant lot in Scranton.

There's now a brand-new double-block home on Madison Avenue in Scranton's Hill Section. Organizers say that this property and the one on Alder Street have been the goal.

"We do have a few properties that eventually people will build a house on, like this one right here. Hopefully, that will come into fruition in the near future," Pappas said.

When a land bank property is sold, it becomes taxable again. It's good news for the city and for the family who will soon be reunited.

"It's a big blessing for us, yes. I've been here like I said, 25 years I've lived in Scranton, for 25 years. We just purchased a home right here on Elmhurst Boulevard, and they came to visit us, and they said, 'Oh, my God, this place looks great, we like this place,'" Mariano Estevez said.

Right now, only five municipalities in Lackawanna County, including Scranton, participate in the land bank program. County officials hope to see more townships and boroughs sign-on.