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City eyes demolishing vacant homes

1913 Foster St.

1913 Foster St.

Dozens of homes stand vacant in Evanston, and aldermen want to step up efforts to force owners to fix them up or tear them down.

1913 Foster St.

Dozens of homes stand vacant in Evanston, and aldermen want to step up efforts to force owners to fix them up or tear them down.

1913 Foster St.

1913 Foster St. is one of the city's vacant buildings.

In the more than three years since the city passed an ordinance requiring that vacant buildings be boarded up, property standards inspectors have cited 66 properties for violations, Community Development Director James Wolinski said at Monday's Planning and Development Committee meeting.

A dozen of the the buildings have been demolished, Stan Janusz, who head's the city's property standards division, said, and a few have been rehabbed, but that leaves 48 active cases.

"My request is that we put some teeth in this," Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said. "Go out and knock them down if they don't comply with the ordinance after a given amount of time."

1904 Foster St.

The vacant home at 1904 Foster St. was demolished last year. 

"Now we don't collect the fines unless the property sells, and they may never be sold," he added, "We're available, if the owners want, we can work out an arrangement to turn the property over for affordable housing purposes."

Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said, "We need something more than just boarding it up over and over again."

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said, "This problem isn't unique to us. We should look at what innovative steps other municipalities have taken — or maybe we need to be the innovative community."

Ron Fleckman, a board member of the Evanston Community Development Corporation, said ECDC "has the resources to probably take on up to 10 of these properties. We have workforce development kids learning trades to do rehab or new contruction and could put houses back on the market in an affordable price range."

Ald. Bernstein said, "The ordinance needs to create motivated sellers. We need to get those properties on the market. The only way to do that is to create leverage, so we have the ability to demolish and taken them over."

The aldermen asked the city's legal staff to develop a stronger ordinance for them to consider at an upcoming meeting.

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