Cook County agency gave alderman’s top aide quite a real estate deal

County agency wiped out $200K in unpaid property taxes for Alderman Carrie Austin’s chief of staff, then let that top aide’s business partner redevelop the property with taxpayer-funded loan

Chicago /
Nov.November 04, 2019 05:48 PM
Ald. Carrie Austin, Chester Wilson Jr., 10300-02 S. Corliss Ave. (Credit: Redfin, LinkedIn)

Alderman Carrie Austin, Chester Wilson Jr., 10300-02 S. Corliss Ave. (Credit: Redfin, LinkedIn)

Alderman Carrie Austin’s office has yet another real estate problem.

A few months after the FBI raided the 34th Ward alderman’s home, seeking records relating to her shady home purchase and ties to a local developer, Austin’s top aide is in hot water for his own housing issues. 

Following a fire and frequent complaints of neglect, Austin’s chief of staff Chester Wilson Jr. stopped paying taxes on a two-story brick building on Corliss Avenue in 2008, racking up more than $200,000. 

He cut a deal with the Cook County Land Bank Authority, which would eliminate the entirety of the debt so another party could redevelop the property and begin paying taxes. But the person who wound up developing Wilson’s property was his own business partner, Lisa Livingston, who paid just $40,000 for the property. Just months earlier, the two had rehabbed another property and sold it for a profit, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

But the land bank didn’t catch that.

Livingston subsequently received a $20,000 loan from the land bank, with the stipulation that she finish the work by May 2019. She blew past the deadline, but now has until April to finish. Although Livingston lied on her paperwork, Robert Rose, who heads the land bank, won’t cancel the loan or take over the property, saying he has to be “pragmatic.”

“I’ve been able to substantiate the work that she’s doing, OK,” he told the Sun-Times. “So, in making that decision, the balance here is also what’s best for the neighborhood and what’s best for this area.”

Meanwhile, Austin is under federal investigation after she received a $231,000 federal housing loan to purchase a home in a development that was in line to get $5.5 million in tax increment financing funds. Eight months after Austin’s purchase, the Cook County assessor’s office estimated her home was worth at least $500,000. Federal prosecutors are also interested in her ties to South Side businessman Boris Nitchoff and his family, who have secured over $100 million in city contracts.[Sun-Times]TRD


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