Cook County Cracks Down on Vacant Real Estate

December 16, 2011

An ordinance aimed at securing vacant metro Chicago real estate has been passed by Cook County.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners this week unanimously passed a Vacant Property Ordinance, which requires the owners of abandoned buildings in unincorporated Cook County to pay $250 each year to list the properties as vacant on a countywide registry.

abandoned buildingThe ordinance also lists guidelines that property owners must follow for securing and maintaining those vacant homes and businesses.

Failure to do so could result in fines from $500 to $1,000 per day.

The ordinance is similar to one adopted by the Chicago City Council last month, in which property owners must dish out $500 a year to register the buildings as empty.

But that ordinance is being challenged in court. This week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency filed a federal lawsuit to exempt properties with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which holds mortgages on more than 258,000 Chicago homes.

About 10 percent of all homes in unincorporated Cook County are vacant. The county ordinance will take effect in February.

Grassroots community organization Action Now fought for the Vacant Property Ordinance.

The group’s Housing Policy Director, Braden Listmann, addressed the Cook County Board about the importance of the ordinance.

“I would like to focus on things that we can all see and all feel when we live and work in the community,” he said. “One of our members had her home broken into, her belongings stolen and then stored in a vacant property across the street from her. Other members living near vacant properties have to deal with drug dealers and gang members that use unsecured vacant properties as a criminal haven in their community. In some cases, children have been pulled into vacant buildings and assaulted.

“You know these facts if you live near vacant buildings that have been neglected during the foreclosure process. Action Now members fight for real changes in the community; and that means keeping people in their homes and ensuring that vacant homes are well maintained so they do not become a nuisance and a danger. Action Now members are willing to fight hard for better communities.”


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