Lawmakers are exploring a way to stabilize Illinois communities hit hard by the Great Recession. Advocates say a statewide property tax credit would boost development in blighted areas.
When houses are left vacant, it drives down property values for the entire block. In Cook County alone, there are an estimated 55,000 such vacancies.
A plan before the General Assembly would let local governments create a property tax credit aimed at improving those neighborhoods. It would be limited to areas that have had poor investment in housing, and would only go to people willing to do significant rehab work on the houses.
Charlotte Flickinger, with the Illinois Housing Development Authority, says says local governments and schools only stand to gain from moving vacant houses back onto the tax rolls.
"In most cases, nobody's paying taxes on those houses now," she said. "So it goes from zero to somebody paying something and living in the community and spending money in the community."
Flickinger says many of these abandoned houses are being demolished on taxpayers' dime. Instead, she says development could reverse the course of blight in high-abandonment areas.
"These homes attract crime, they're a blight, they drag down the property values of other houses," she said. "So we need to give local governments a tool that they can use to offer a property tax incentive for folks to move into these houses, to fix up these houses, rather than just demolishing."
Local governments would be able to choose whether to offer the tax credit.