The ordinance is aimed at eliminating blight in communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis by requiring owners and mortgagees to register their properties with the County and maintain the interior and exterior of the buildings to certain standards. It also expedites the adjudication process that continues to clog up the County’s court system.
The ordinance applies only to unincorporated Cook County but it provides a mechanism for municipalities to voluntarily opt-in. Prior to the ordinance taking effect, President Preckwinkle’s administration held informational meeting sessions with municipal leaders and lending institutions to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page. The administration will continue to actively work with municipalities and lending institutions to highlight the mutual benefit to both residents and local governments that the vacant building ordinance provides to Cook County’s communities.
“The Vacant Building Ordinance is an important tool for the County and for municipalities as we continue to work together to address the challenges of the foreclosure crisis,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We are establishing clear cut policies to ensure everyone plays by the same rules, while also putting the right tools in the hands of local governments to help enforce those policies in a way that is sustainable in the long run. We are committed to working individually with each and every municipality that wants to participate in this effort to help tailor the ordinance to issues that are unique to their communities.”
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th), who was the chief sponsor of the ordinance and worked closely with the President’s administration as they prepared for implementation, lauded the collaboration with municipalities and said that successful implementation of the ordinance is crucial to future economic development.
“The Vacant Building Ordinance removed the economic incentive for mortgagees and owners to just stand by and watch housing values decline,” Commissioner Gainer said. “With 10% of our local housing inventory now vacant, our next challenge will be how we plan for and revitalize vacant and abandoned properties all over the County. Protecting housing protects our future economic development possibilities.”
The County created a new website that municipalities, owners, mortgagees and even residents can use to register their properties, track progress and engage directly with County government. The Department of Building and Zoning, the Department of Administrative Hearings and the Bureau of Economic Development will task staff members to ensure that the Vacant Building Ordinance is being implemented as successfully as possible.