PI Original Adam Doster Wednesday June 17th, 2009, 1:39pm

Chicagoland Vacancies On The Rise

Back in May, an Associated Press analysis
found housing vacancy rates of 20 percent or more in nearly 40 Illinois
census tracts, ranging from Chicago to Rockford to Danville to East St.
Louis. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as reported by Crain's, backs up their work...

Back in May, an Associated Press analysis found housing vacancy rates of 20 percent or more in nearly 40 Illinois census tracts, ranging from Chicago to Rockford to Danville to East St. Louis. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as reported by Crain's, backs up their work.

In the first quarter of 2009, the local home vacancy rate rose to 3.8 percent, up slightly from the fourth quarter of 2008 but a full 1.1 percent higher than the same period a year earlier. It's also the highest rate the area has experienced since the Census began tracking home vacancies in 1996. A Crain's graph shows the dramatic spike since the mortgage crisis hit in early 2007: 

As we've written before, vacancies and the assorted problems that flow from property neglect have terrible consequences for communities. As Adam Gross, staff counsel at the Chicago-based Business and Professional People for the Public Interest told us, "crime goes up, property values go down, and the tax base is further weakened." Lawmakers and advocates crafted an innovative bill last session to empower Illinois municipalities to alleviate the negative side effects of this abandonment.  Encouragingly, it passed both chambers before the May 31 deadline, a sign that lawmakers take the problem seriously. But HB 1195 still needs a concurrence vote in the Senate, which might take place if the General Assembly reconvenes for a special session later this month. In the meantime, housing advocates are working hard to ensure that the protections for municipalities aren't weakened. We will have a final update on those negotiations later this week.

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