Skip to Content Top

20% of Vacant Properties In Chicago Have Been Empty For More Than Five Years


That's right. According to the Chicago Reporter, one in five vacant properties in Chicago have been empty for more than five years. These are the so-called "zombie properties;" the ones stuck in limbo in the foreclosure process. Technically owned by the absent property owner, these buildings are stuck in the foreclosure process because the bank simply doesn't want them.

These buildings create blight. They attact crime. They endanger property values. The record owners of the properties are long gone in most cases. The bank that started the foreclosure process is shying away from finalizing the process because it doesn't want the property.

We need to think about this problem. The majority of the blight is on the South and West sides of the city. The north side has largely avoided the problem in comparison. This means that the neighborhoods that were already suffering from the biggest drops in value will continue to have a slow recovery.

If there are blocks with mostly abandoned and neglected properties, then the values of owner-occupied properties will never recover. From the article:

Chicago's Law Department has opened at least 1,100 housing court cases in the past two years against properties linked to a handful of banks in charge of the bulk of the vacancies.

"We found that when banks had properties in good areas, they kept them nice, secure and neat," says Deputy Corporation Counsel Judy Frydland. "In, let's say, not-so-nice areas, that wasn't the case."

This is a problem that cannot be solved quickly enough. Chicago cannot sustain a recovery based solely on the North side's property values. While there are some land banks in play, and while the city's Corporation Counsel is doing a good job coming after the worst properties, progress is slow. There are more buildings in the pipeline.