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Cook County Passes Ordinance to Regulate Vacant Homes

By Tavis J. Hampton | December 15, 2011

Today the Cook County Board passed an ordinance that will introduce regulations for vacant homes. The ordinance is similar to one that the city of Chicago recently instituted and will cover the non-incorporated areas in Cook County. The move comes in spite of the fact that the Chicago ordinance is now involved in a federal lawsuit.

Daley Plaza Cook County

The county’s ordinance will require mortgage lenders to pay $250 to list buildings as vacant in the county’s registry. The goal is to get a better handle on the growing number of vacant properties in and around the Chicago metropolitan area. Owners of vacant properties will have to make sure the properties are in good condition and submit them to the registry within 30 days. Lenders of foreclosed vacant properties will have 60 days to do the same.

The Chicago version of the ordinance is only slightly different with a $500 price tag, but the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) filed a federal lawsuit to gain exemption from it, claiming the ordinance was in violation of the agency’s right to be the sole regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which currently owns approximately 280,000 mortgages in Chicago.

Nevertheless, it would seem that the ordinances are largely aimed at these agencies, which apparently have not been taking responsibility for the large number of abandoned and derelict homes in the area. FHFA owns 75 percent of the mortgages in Cook County.

Cook County sought the approval of the state of Illinois before passing the ordinance and eventually passed it without opposition. It is confident that FHFA will eventually lose its suit against Chicago and would likewise lose any suit against the county.

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