The Chicago City Council passed legislation today meant to force banks to maintain vacant, foreclosed properties that have proliferated across Chicago in the wake of the housing bust and foreclosure crisis.
The bill passed out of council 49 to zero, a spokeswoman from the city clerk's office said (one alderman was absent from the meeting). The banking industry and business organizations had opposed the legislation.
Submitted by chief sponsor 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, the bill's centerpiece is an expansion of the definition of property ownership. Under the bill's new language, mortgagees--including lenders that have foreclosed on homes--are now defined as building owners and thus responsible for property upkeep and maintenance. Blight stemming out of such homes is a big problem on Chicago's South and West sides.
At least half of bank-owned properties remain on the city's existing vacant building registry, The Chicago Reporter found in an investigation published in May. Some banks, however, say they are not responsible for the registration and fees--they say it should be paid by the company that services the mortgage.
In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel commended the legislation, noting the taxpayer dollars expended last year to grapple with vacant structures. "[T]he 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," the statement says. "Nearly all of these buildings and garages fall into the category addressed by this ordinance."
© Community Renewal Society 2011