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City Council, Alderman Pat Dowell Pass Ordinance Addressing Vacant Buildings, Lender Responsibility

On Thursday, July 28, the Chicago city council passed a new amendment to the Vacant Property Ordinance holding banks responsible for maintaining foreclosed properties in neighborhoods across Chicago. The amendment, introduced by 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, counted with the Mayor’s support along with a grassroots community organization called Action Now.

“The foreclosure process sometimes takes a year or 18 months, two years for them to actually foreclose on the property and sometimes certain banks let those properties sit vacant,” said Alderman Dowell. “They can become haven for gang bangers and drug dealers; there is also the potential for fire hazards.”

Vacant properties have become a financial burden in the City, particularly in African American neighborhoods where vacant properties are significantly concentrated. According to a study by the Woodstock Institute earlier this year, 50.2 percent of the properties with a foreclosure filing in the City of Chicago between 2006 and the first half of 2010 were in communities that are 80 percent or greater African American compared to 15.4 percent in communities that are less than 50 percent minority.

“When vacant buildings are left to deteriorate, local property values tumble and criminality gains an entry into the neighborhood,” said Dowell. “The landmark piece of legislation passed today will hold banks responsible for the upkeep of vacant properties, keeping them secure and keeping neighborhoods intact.”

In September of 2010, there were 18,320 properties on the City’s vacant buildings index. Of these, 12,674, or 69.2 percent, were associated with a foreclosure filed between 2006 and the first half of 2010, according to the study.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel commended the ordinance as a “way to protect residents, neighborhoods, and communities from the devastating impact of foreclosures.”

In 2010, the City spent more than $15 million to deal with vacant buildings: the Department of Buildings demolished or boarded up more than 500 buildings at a cost of $13.7 million; the Department of Streets and Sanitation performed general upkeep on 1,963 vacant properties and demolished 345 vacant garages at a cost of $1.8 million. Nearly all of these buildings and garages fall into the category addressed by this ordinance.

The ordinance passed on Thursday amends the municipal code of Chicago to define a “mortgagee,” an entity who holds a mortgage on a property, as a property owner. Mortgagees will be required to implement routine maintenance on properties such as boarding entrances to a building; responding to complaints relating to the building; cutting grass; and shoveling snow, according to the release.

“For a long time the banks have been allowed to set the tone in our communities and the rules about how they are going to behave and this ordinance requires them now to take care of properties that they own in our neighborhood even before they foreclose on them,” said Dowell.

The alderman urges residents to help by identifying the vacant buildings in their neighborhoods and working with their alderman.

To hear THE GATE's interview with Ald. Pat Dowell go to:

Keywords: Action Now, Alderman Pat Dowell, banks, Chicago, city council, housing, housing victory, lenders, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, neighborhoods, Vacant Property Ordinance, woodstock institute

Posted in Housing


12:46 AM
Aug 25, 2011
nanisc99 says:

This is her info. You can also contact your on alderman and have him or her help you with the follow up in case you find vacant buildings in need of proper maintenance.
5046 South State Street
Chicago, IL 60609

3:59 PM
Aug 12, 2011
Corrinn says:

I am most definitely going to take advantage of this new ordinance. What's my alderman's number?!!?

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