Addressing Vacant Properties

Vacant properties destabilize neighborhoods, lower property values, and attract crime. Woodstock Institute advocates for policies that require better maintenance and reuse of vacant, abandoned homes.

September 4, 2013
A federal court decision dealt a serious blow last week to Chicago's ability to revitalize communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.
September 4, 2013
The Cook County Land Bank is nearly open for business, and if it works, assumptions about the power of local governments to combat urban blight might have to change.
September 4, 2013
Last week, on the same day that much of the country paused to measure the distance we’ve come in the fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech, a Chicago theatre company opened a new production of A Raisin in the Sun, the groundbreaking play from a few years before King’s speech.
Tags: foreclosures
September 3, 2013
Helene Pearson’s belief in homeownership was shattered in Roseland, the mostly black Chicago neighborhood where President Barack Obama got his start as a community organizer.
August 28, 2013

Governor Quinn signed SB 56, the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act (PTFA), into law last week. Illinois’ PTFA extends basic protections to renters living in buildings that go into foreclosure. 

August 27, 2013
Federal ruling says empty properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are exempt from city's rule
August 27, 2013
A federal judge has ruled Chicago’s vacant building ordinance no longer applies to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as mortgagees. This decision comes as the city continues to struggle with thousands of foreclosed homes.
August 26, 2013

CHICAGO—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not be required to maintain vacant homes up to the standards in the City of Chicago’s vacant buildings ordinance, ruled U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin on Friday. 

August 23, 2013

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “A five-bedroom house in Las Vegas sold in mid-July for $499,000, double the price it went for three months ago. In Phoenix, a similar house sold this month for $600,000, gaining $273,000 since March. 

August 16, 2013

Is the Chicago region housing market turning a corner? New data we released this week offer some optimism—foreclosure filings, which signify the beginning of the foreclosure process, dropped by more than a third across the Chicago six county region from the first half of 2012 to the first half of 2013.

July 25, 2013
Vacant and foreclosed properties in Madison are likely to get a facelift in coming months.The City Council recently approved an ordinance to require financial institutions to inspect, secure and maintain abandoned properties. The measure will require banks, lenders and other financial...
July 18, 2013
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Tuesday that she will dole out $70 million to several Illinois communities hindered by the nation’s ongoing foreclosure crisis.The funds, made available by a $25 billion national settlement with five mortgage...
July 1, 2013

Local municipalities should ramp up vacant–building data collection to help address a problem that continues to ravage Chicago–area communities due to the foreclosure crisis, according to a new report from the Woodstock Institute.

June 27, 2013

Local municipalities should collect more data about vacant buildings to better tackle a problem that has damaged neighborhoods across the region since the housing crash, a new report argues.

June 25, 2013

Municipalities across the Chicago region are struggling to come up with effective ways of making vacant homes productive again. Some communities are hitting a wall: how can you design a response when you don’t fully understand the problem?

June 24, 2013
Enhanced data collection by municipalities in the Chicago six county region will help the region address the problem of vacant buildings, a new report by Woodstock Institute found.
June 24, 2013
This report documents the information local governments currently collect about vacant buildings and finds the data being collected vary widely among the municipalities, with significant gaps.
June 24, 2013
Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee approved its funding bill for next year, complete with draconian cuts to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs.
May 23, 2013
The last thing many Chicago neighborhoods need is another abandoned building. Now that Chicago Public Schools is officially closing 50 schools, that means 42 buildings will be shuttered in June. Many dot areas of the city that are already grappling with poverty and seeking economic development...
May 13, 2013
Presentation by Spencer Cowan on real estate trends on indicators such as foreclosures, vacant properties, population, and mortgage origination.
March 22, 2012

CHICAGO--Negative equity is disproportionately concentrated in the Chicago region’s African American, Latino, and majority minority neighborhoods, a new report from Woodstock Institute found.

The report also found that borrowers in communities of color have much less equity on average than do borrowers in predominantly white communities. “Underwater homes limit opportunities for families and sap neighborhood wealth,” said Spencer Cowan, Vice President at Woodstock Institute. “When highly concentrated, underwater homes  can contribute to community destabilization and the proliferation of foreclosures. The clustering of negative equity in communities of color poses hurdles to economic recovery in these areas.”

Vacant Building Ordinances
February 14, 2012
A summary of the provisions in the Cook County Vacant Buildings Ordinance and 2011 changes to the City of Chicago's Vacant Buildings Ordinance.
August 8, 2011

The Chicago City Council unanimously passed an ordinance recently that would hold mortgage servicers accountable for maintaining the thousands of vacant homes stuck in the foreclosure process without resolution. We estimate that these abandoned vacant homes can cost Chicago up to $36 million annually.

June 24, 2011

Can we trust even the most seemingly reputable public figures? How will we address the needs of our aging population? Can destroying 70,000 homes actually make a city a better place to live? And, for good measure, what is real? Our staff has a lot to think about this week.

May 12, 2011

Bank of America recently announced that it will donate 150 vacant, foreclosed properties to Chicago-area nonprofits for rehab or demolition. Housing Wire reports:

March 29, 2011

When the South Suburban Housing Collaborative and the West Cook County Housing Collaborative were formed in 2009, they were built on a bold idea: that municipalities could look beyond political boundaries and work together to tackle the pressing housing needs of their areas, from foreclosure response to affordable housing to strategic and sustainable development. It was a tall order, and one that had scarcely been tried elsewhere.  Almost two years later, the experiment is starting to show positive results. The West Cook County Housing Collaborative broke ground on their first project this month in Maywood.

March 25, 2011

It’s clear that vacant homes put a damper on their surrounding community. Not only are they eyesores, they put other homes at risk of losing value and may attract crime and other destabilizing elements. To minimize these risks, many municipalities have ordinances that allow them to hold the homes’ owners responsible for securing and maintaining the property. What can already-strapped local governments do if it’s unclear who the owner is, or the owner hasn’t notified them that the property is vacant?

Troubled Foreclosed Properties
March 24, 2011
Findings and recommendations from a February 2011 briefing at which Woodstock Institute convened a group of key stakeholders at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to discuss solutions that would keep properties occupied, hold mortgage loan servicers accountable for their disposition of properties in the foreclosure process, and return vacant properties back to productive use.
February 17, 2011

The foreclosure crisis continues to evolve and pose new challenges for communities working towards recovery. Chicago area municipalities, community and policy groups, and financial institutions have been working together for years to develop tools and strategies to handle the problems associated with foreclosures on single-family homes, many of which have been highlighted by Regional HOPI. A new threat is commanding these groups’ attention:  foreclosures on condominiums.

January 20, 2011

Our latest report, “Left Behind: Troubled Foreclosed Properties and Servicer Accountability in Chicago,” has created a wave of buzz from the Chicago region and beyond, generating dozens of stories, thousands of comments, and scores of tweets and Facebook posts. In case you missed it, the report found thousands of troubled foreclosed homes in Chicago that are likely poorly maintained, lack clear ownership, and threaten to destabilize neighborhoods. These homes include what we call “red flag” properties, where a servicer has decided not to complete the foreclosure process, and likely-vacant lender-owned properties that are not registered with the City of Chicago potentially in violation of its vacant properties ordinance.