• Will Cook County’s Copycat Ordinance Earn It Copycat Lawsuit?

    Despite the city of Chicago now facing federal lawsuit over the vacant building ordinance passed by the City Council in November, the Cook County Board decided to pass its own measure that “largely mirrors” the one adopted by the Windy City, the Chicago Tribune reported on December 14, 2011. The county ordinance would require a property’s mortgagee to pay $250 to list buildings as vacant on a countywide registry, whereas the Chicago ordinance involves a $500 property registration fee.

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 12 against the city of Chicago, “charging that the city’s rules encroach on its role as the sole regulator and supervisor of Fannie and Freddie,” according to the Tribune. Despite that lawsuit, the Cook County measure passed without opposition.

    According to the Tribune, 10th District Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer told fellow commissioners, “When 75 percent of the mortgages in Cook County are owned by FHFA, allowing them to ignore their responsibilities to their own assets or our communities is impossible and a long-term disaster.”

    The Tribune also noted that Fannie and Freddie own about 258,000 mortgages within the city of Chicago. While these ordinances represent an honorable attempt to help the neighborhoods affected by vacancies, they will probably do little to help those needing foreclosure help and facing eviction.

    A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could help many of these troubled homeowners stay in their houses, but what do you think of Cook County passing an ordinance similar to Chicago’s even after it ended up being challenged in court? Do you expect the FHFA to sue the county as well?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Feds Suing Chicago Over Controversial Ordinance

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is suing the city of Chicago over its ordinance making mortgage creditors liable for the upkeep of vacant properties, the Wall Street Journal reported on December 13, 2011. The city had revised the ordinance in November by dropping a provision that had defined creditors as property owners after lenders threatened to sue, but the changes were not enough to satisfy the FHFA.

    According to the journal, the agency said “the ordinance was unfair because it imposed all of the costs of ownership without any of the benefits, such as the right to sell or lease the property.” The lawsuit also says the ordinance oversteps federal law by subjecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to regulation that is the jurisdiction of the FHFA. The FHFA said that the $500 fee the ordinance requires mortgage owners to pay to register vacant properties and conduct monthly inspections of properties to determine if they are vacant “represents a tax” on Fannie and Freddie, according to the Journal.

    Nearly 1,900 vacant properties in Chicago are stuck in the foreclosure process at a cost of $36 million in upkeep costs borne by the city, according to an estimate from researchers at the nonprofit Woodstock Institute. Tom Feltner, vice president of the Woodstock Institute, told the Journal, “By in many cases ignoring these properties you’re doing a disservice to the community and a disservice to the investor.”

    What do you think of the Chicago ordinance? Do you think it will help either the people needing foreclosure help or the neighborhoods where the foreclosures are happening?

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer