Take Back the Block with Chicago Neighborhood Clean-up

May 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you’re in Chicago this summer, we’ve gotten wind of an opportunity you don’t want to miss.  It’s called Take Back the Block, and it’s coming to you this June.

Earlier this month, the Northwest Side Housing Center led a coalition of DePaul students and community residents to clean up three vacant properties in the 36th Ward/Montclare area.  Founded in 2003, NWSHC has been a leading advocate for the city’s struggling homeowners since the housing crisis began.  The goal of Take Back the Block, one of NWSHC’s newer projects, is to take on what many mortgage servicers have neglected to do: look after their property.

When banks foreclose upon a family’s home, the residents are evicted, and the banks assume ownership.  Yet too many of these foreclosed homes have fallen into disrepair.  This poses an enormous danger to the surrounding communities. Last year, Chicago’s City Council passed an ordinance that holds banks responsible for these properties, but under pressure from the financial industry, the Council passed an amendment weakening the ordinance.  Then, this past March, an empty house caught fire, which soon spread.

Two people were killed and two firefighters were injured.  Since then, NWSHC has redoubled its efforts to clean up vacant properties around the Northwest side.  There’s a lot on the line.

According to NPR, the cost to Chicago for securing its vacant properties can run up to $36 million in a single year.  Moreover, those figures don’t include the social cost–the longer these properties go uncared for, the more likely they are to fuel the city’s drug trade, as has happened in West Humboldt Park. The Woodstock Institute, a local research group, adds that on average, the value of a home near a vacant property falls $7,000 per year.

So what can you do?  Why, help us take back the block!  On Saturday, June 9 and again on Saturday, June 23, NWSHC will lead additional clean-up efforts in the 38th Ward/Portage Park and Old Irving Park.  Contact Vanessa Valentin (773-283-3888) at NWSHC for more information.  For those of you out of town, we’ll have more news on these exciting direct actions.  In the meantime, you can check out some pictures from the most recent clean-up, and like the Northwest Side Housing Center on Facebook.

Mark Jacobs edits the MSCS blog.

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