The Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative’s November meeting featured a group of housing specialists from the City of Rockford who discussed their approach to targeting problem properties and fighting blight. Rockford’s Legal Director Nicholas Meyer, Assistant City Attorney Matthew Flores, and Building Code Official Nelson Sjostrom shared how, despite not having home rule authority, the City of Rockford’s Legal Department uses a number of creative tools and tactics to combat the challenge of commercial and residential property vacancies leading to blight.
The group explained a municipality’s statutory authority to attack blight, such as the Illinois Demolition Statute, abandonment petitions, securing or enclosing abandoned residential or commercial properties, abating nuisances, and more. They also discussed municipal authority to take immediate action to remove blight. They outlined how to build an effective neighborhood stabilization team. The team includes a neighborhood stabilization officer to manage the blight reduction program; neighborhood standards officers to investigate exterior issues; building code officials and inspectors to investigate interior issues; police, fire and human services for potential safety or social issues; and a legal department to coordinate enforcement efforts in court or through administrative code hearing processes. In addition they explained the following: How to establish an effective code enforcement process; enforcing administrative orders and using the court system to attack blight; administrative warrants; and alternative programs to stabilize neighborhoods. For more information, please see the slide presentation. The meeting took place on Nov. 14 at SSMMA offices.