Vacant lots cost Cook County $1.15B in lost tax revenue

Treasurer hopes less red tape will turn into more sales at auction next month

(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Cook County wants to fill a few vacancies.

Treasurer Maria Pappas says she’s trying to make it easier to buy the county’s 31,000 vacant or abandoned properties, which cost it $1.15 billion in lost tax revenue, according to Chicago CBS 2. She eliminated a $250 fee to obtain a list of the lots and created an interactive map to show where they are.

The change came ahead of a so-called scavenger sale that the county holds every other year, an auction of all properties with at least three years of unpaid property taxes. This year’s sale will take place over two weeks starting Feb. 14 at the George W. Dunne Cook County Office Building, 69 W. Washington St.

“If more people are on the tax sale rolls; if more people pay more money, the other people who already live in houses would be paying less,” Pappas told CBS 2. “So this is a question of economic development.”

Bids start at $250. Once a property is purchased, the original owner has a set amount of time to repay the taxes. If they don’t, the property goes to the new owner, who pays the debt.

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The map shows a concentration of vacant properties in downtown Chicago extending through the South Side. Some neighborhoods, such as North Lawndale, have a vacancy rate of about 20 percent. Last year, the city sold 250 lots there for $1 each to a joint venture that plans to build affordable homes.

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UPDATE: This story has been corrected after CBS2 corrected its story to show that lost tax revenue amounted to $1.15 billion.

[Chicago CBS 2] – Harrison Connery