CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes to speed up the process of securing vacant buildings as part of an effort to fight crime and stomp out potential criminal hideouts, the mayor's office said.
He and Ald. Jo Ann Thompson (16th) are expected on Wednesday to introduce an amendment to the city's vacant buildings ordinance that would help secure empty buildings faster by cutting out certain steps of the process.
“This amendment will ensure that vacant, hazardous buildings are secured more swiftly and prevented from becoming havens for crime and destructive blights on our communities,” Emanuel said in a statement. “The proposal will cut down on inspections for the city as well as delays in the system that prevent progress in our neighborhoods.”
While the current ordinance calls for the city to inspect a building twice before ordering an owner to secure it, the new measure would remove the second inspection, thereby shortening the process from three months to two, the mayor's office said.
Under the proposal, after the city determines that a building is vacant, the owner would need to show that the building is secured against unlawful entry by the first hearing date or risk a fine.
The existing ordinance requires owners of vacant buildings to register them and adhere to certain maintanence standards. The hope is that with the buildings closed to squatters, fewer will be used as shelters for gangs and other criminal activity.
Recently, the city faced a setback when a federal judge ruled that the ordinance did not apply to properties funded by mortgage heavyweights Fannie May and Freddie Mac, which back a number of local buildings undergoing the foreclosure process, the Tribune reported in August.
Since taking office in 2011, Emanuel has worked with the city to bulk up the ordinance and shutter more than 300 vacant and abandoned buildings, his office claims.