Cook County officials call for change of tax sale system
Cook County officials Saturday spoke in support of changes to the tax sale system that they said would help homeowners keep their properties and help municipalities move more quickly to save abandoned properties.
When homeowners in Illinois fall behind on property taxes, penalties and interest of up to 18% are assessed every 6 months. Tax delinquency and escalating fines drive abandonment, and it then can take years to name a new owner even when no owner claims the property, officials said.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined a coalition of suburban mayors and other local leaders to support Senate Bill 1721, the Homeowner Relief and Community Recovery Act. The bill passed in the Senate last month.
They said it will empower 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.
Preckwinkle spoke at the Animal Care League in Oak Park, which attempted to purchase a vacant building next door for six years at the tax sale, but was unable to compete with large companies that purchased the rights but never picked up the title or paid the back taxes, officials said.
"For years, we watched the building right next to us sit empty, full of weeds, while we needed space to expand," said Chatka Ruggiero, a board member, said in a news release issued by Preckwinkle. The county Land Bank recently facilitated the group's purchase of the property.