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City Council Cracks Down on Vacant Building Owners

By Wendell Hutson | October 16, 2013 6:22pm | Updated on October 17, 2013 8:40am
 An abandoned home in the 7000 block of South Parnell Avenue with a trash-filled backyard has been cleaned up by the city after years of neglect.
City Crackdown on Vacant Property Owners
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DOWNTOWN — One day after the city's Streets and Transportation Department cleaned up a trash-filled backyard of an abandoned home in Englewood, the City Council on Wednesday passed an amendment requiring owners to secure their vacant properties immediately.

Currently, two inspections are needed before the city forces a vacant building owner to secure the building, a process that could take three months. But the new ordinance reduces inspections to one, thus expediting enforcement procedures. That means if the city determines that a building is vacant and open, the owner must secure the building right away.

Owners also would be subject to a fine unless they can show that the property was secured by the first hearing date.

Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th) is one of five aldermen whose wards runs through Englewood, a community filled with vacant properties.

“By securing vacant buildings, we reduce crime in our communities while providing stability to our residents,” Thompson said. “I am committed to making sure that Chicago is a safe place to live, and this amendment will be protecting Chicagoans by ensuring that dangerous buildings are effectively and quickly secured."

Many vacant properties often become illegal dumping sites, said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who introduced a new amendment at a Wednesday City Council meeting to address it.

The amendment allows property owners with proper equipment to crush and reuse useable debris, such as concrete, onsite. Recycling building materials not only helps the environment, it reduces trash, said Emanuel.

“By making it easier for developers and owners to recycle materials on site, we are helping make cleanups both faster and better, improving neighborhoods across Chicago," the mayor said.

It would also help discourage illegal dumping, which can become a health hazard for the community, said Dr. Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the city's Health Department.

A vacant home at 7047 S. Parnell Ave. in Englewood had been empty so long that it created a safety problem for neighbors, said Ruthie Shivers, 83, who lives next door to the abandoned home where piles of trash had been illegally dumped in the backyard.

On Tuesday the city cleaned up the backyard after months of complaints by Shivers.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), whose ward includes the vacant house, said it was not the first time his office had the lot cleaned.

"The city has a responsibility to help secure the vacant buildings, ticket irresponsible owners and work to ensure city services are applied fairly. But neighbors have a responsibility to lend a helping hand," Sawyer said.