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Community moves on an abandoned building

Southwest Side residents will paint a mural on an abandoned building and plant a community garden in the backyard tomorrow, celebrating the success of a community drive to secure the property —  and promoting plans to reclaim the building as affordable housing.

A press conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, May 19) at 6212 S. Fairfield, a foreclosed property which has been a source of trouble for years, and whose owners the city has been unable to identify.

Festivities will take place on the block through the afternoon, and leaders of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network,  Southwest Organizing Project, and Jewish Council on Urban Affairs will hold an interfaith prayer service honoring the community’s commitment and unity.

The two-family building, just across the street from Fairfield Elementary School, has been repeatedly broken into and often wide open over recent years, said Mark Crain of IMAN.  “We know that there has been sexual abuse taking place there and that there’s been rampant drug use,” he said.

It seemed “nothing was ever able to be done about it,” said Mike Reardon of Neighborhood House Service of Chicago Lawn.  “It’s what I’d call a classic bank walkaway.”

First the building’s owner walked away, and after foreclosure, the title was awarded to Deutsche Bank; but the bank never took title, he said.  Other banks and financial services are listed as having interests, and a tax sale also clouds the title.

“We’ve tried meeting with Deutsche Bank, but the talks never went anywhere,” Crain said.

IMAN pressed to have the building taken to Housing Court – an unusual step following foreclosure — but no owners have responded.  Housing Court opens the possibility of taking the building over under the city’s Troubled Buildings Initiative.  In the meantime, NHS was appointed receiver and boarded up the building.

On May 12, with 20 neighbors — along with SWOP and JCUA – in court to show support for IMAN’s effort, a judge issued a final summons to any possible owners.  IMAN is preparing a proposal to rehab the building as affordable housing, Crain said.

If that process is unsuccessful, the group will explore acting under a new state law, the Abandoned Housing Rehabilitation Act, he said.

IMAN hopes it will be the second building in its Green Reentry Project, which trains ex-offenders to retrofit abandoned homes with energy efficient systems.  The project’s first building is scheduled to be completed at the end of this month.

With over 5,000 foreclosures since 2006, Chicago Lawn is among the neighborhoods hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.  Crain said IMAN hopes to scale up reclamation efforts to address abandoned properties in a six block area of the neighborhood.

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Category: faith, foreclosures, green jobs, housing, Southwest Side


2 Responses

  1. Demba says:

    This is a perfect example of community grassroots when the focus is properly set…

    Many human right laws would upfront rescue the needy within the communities, but since lawyers are paid by gig interests somehow to discourage such, when a community group draw sufficient mobilisation over the issue at a parrticular moment, with all the media hype, chances are it get done 100%…

    Keep it up People…


  2. Andrew Wheeler says:

    I’m doing research on the Il Abandoned Housing Rehab Act. I was wondering if they’ve had any luck and could offer any advice to someone who is looking into using this act to improve our community.

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