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Cook County, IL passes groundbreaking vacant property registration ordinance


Cook County – the county seat of the City of Chicago – unanimously passed landmark vacant property registration legislation in December 2011 that will help prevent neglect in unincorporated Cook and any of the County’s 128 municipalities that choose to participate. Community Progress worked with local groups to support the effort.

The ordinance’s intent – to stabilize local housing markets and protect communities’ tax base – won support from cities and towns throughout Cook County, along with housing policy experts, realtors and banks.

The problem is acute: in the past five years, vacant buildings have increased exponentially throughout Cook County, with nearly 10 percent of the housing stock in the County now vacant. The ordinance’s sponsor, County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, argued that instead of being absorbed back in to the private market, these buildings sit vacant for years as magnets for crime and a drag on property values, posing risks to neighbors’ safety and community stability. Another key issue for advocates was the additional burden that local and county governments bear in increased costs for public safety and city services, at the same time that vacant and abandoned properties undercut the tax base. Supporters noted that using taxpayer dollars to address these buildings is neither efficient nor sustainable, and that a vacant property ordinance could represent a critical step towards easing the local housing market out of its downward spiral.

Press release from Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who sponsored the ordinance.

Read the full ordinance here.

Learn more about the issue and the legislation from this PowerPoint presentation.

Chicago Sun-Times coverage

Chicago Tribune coverage