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County officials and suburban mayors push for homeowner relief

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle recently joined a coalition of suburban mayors and other local leaders to support the systemic reforms proposed in the Homeowner Relief and Community Recovery Act. 

The legislation, Senate Bill 1721, is intended to empower communities and local governments to transform vacant properties into homes and businesses and put them back on the tax rolls more quickly while helping residents stay in their homes by reducing predatory interest rates. The officials urged passage of the bill by the Illinois House of Representatives after it passed in the Senate last month.

Across the state, residents and municipalities are hampered by an antiquated tax penalty system that makes it difficult for homeowners to catch up on tax bills and challenging for local governments to rescue abandoned buildings, officials said. 

When homeowners in Illinois fall behind on property taxes, the penalties and interest  — up to 18% assessed every six months — can make it almost impossible for them to catch up on missed payments. Tax delinquency and escalating fines often drive vacancy and abandonment. 

Abandoned, tax-delinquent properties can take years to reclaim — even when all parties agree and no owner claims the property. These vacant buildings create blight and depress the tax base.

The HRCR Act is intended to address the cycle of abandonment and disinvestment by making it easier for homeowners to pay delinquent tax bills; and it helps municipalities save abandoned properties more quickly, stopping the cycle of vacancy and blight and returning properties to productive use.

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