In Chicago, a Partial Solution to the Foreclosure Crisis?

This week Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, at the request of Action Now, the former Illinois chapter of Acorn, which broke away in 2008, and their allies, like Southwest Organizing Project, in the Foreclosure Convening, introduced a new ordinance that would charge the banks the real cost of their actions to foreclose and evict. If passed, the ordinance would pass the responsibility for securing and maintaining vacant buildings onto lenders, regardless of whether they have actually reclaimed legal possession of a building. This proposed legislation would hold banks responsible for the properties they foreclose on by requiring the bank post a bond of $10,000 on every vacant building.

The ordinance would also provide for a finder’s fee to be given to neighbors who report maintenance violations on vacant properties. The finder’s fee would be 5 percent of the total fines and fees assessed at a vacant property, usually amounting to somewhere between $50 and $250.

As homeowners watch their blocks become more and more dangerous and vermin-infested because of the unkempt vacant buildings, we finally have a way to get the banks to pay for at least a portion of the damage they are causing. The ordinance empowers community organizations to help people with the required research and documentation.

For more information on the ordinance, call Action Now at (312) 676-4280.

John Atlas is a founder of Shelterforce and board chair emeritus. He is the producer of ACORN and the Firestorm, a film directed by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard and author of SEEDS OF CHANGE: The Story of ACORN, America's Most Controversial Anti-Poverty Community Group. He is also the former executive director of the Passaic County Legal Aid Society.


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