Client: Chicago Community Trust

Source: We Are Central Illinois (WAND)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — You likely see vacant and abandoned property in your community, and Illinois state lawmakers know those buildings lead to higher property taxes for neighbors.

A House Democrat from Chicago is working with community developers, affordable housing advocates, and tax policy experts to help builders quickly acquire abandoned properties for redevelopment. Rep. Nick Smith told the House Revenue Committee Thursday that his bill can increase home ownership, build wealth in low-income communities, and make the tax sale system work for residents instead of private investors.

“I’ve seen blocks decimated with abandoned properties, and it’s really a disservice to the residents,” Smith said. “It lowers property values and it can be a harbor for illicit activity.”

His plan would allow local governments to intervene after one failed delinquent tax sale to save vacant properties before they deteriorate or require demolition. House Bill 3040 could also eliminate taxpayer-funded payouts to private tax buyers by closing the state’s sale in error loophole.

The city of Decatur is part of a coalition of cities hoping to unleash this community investment in high-vacancy neighborhoods. Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Kankakee, and Chicago have high concentrations of vacant and abandoned properties that are locked in the state’s tax sale system. Smith explained that this has prevented community developers from redeveloping many properties in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods.

“Abandoned homes require the city to flip the bill for maintenance only to have tax buyers threaten to use the loopholes in the system and push the responsibility for upkeep onto our community out longer,” said Peoria Community Development Director Joe Dulin.

Dulin said many properties sit vacant for five or six years under the current system. However, some properties remain abandoned for 10 years before they need to be demolished using taxpayer dollars.

Chicago homeowner Florence Spann said reforms to the property tax sale system could make it easier for residents and community groups to purchase these abandoned lots. Spann noted that this simple change could help improve the value of local homes and beautify neighborhoods.

“Help improve the system so it works for regular people like me and my husband who just want to be proud of where we live,” Spann said.

Smith stressed that House Bill 3040 would prevent private tax buyers from profiting off of letting these homes deteriorate. The legislation is assigned to the House Rules Committee. Although, Smith hopes the bill can move over the final months of session.

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