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Vacancies were “On the Table” at SSMMA


From left: Sue Turner of South Holland, Hildy Kingma of Park Forest, Kendra Smith of CMAP, Lakeshia Wright of SSMMA, L. Marie Asad of BlueCross BlueShield, and Grace Bazylewski of Habitat

Wide-spread vacancies were the “On the Table” topic at the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association’s May 12th luncheon, hosted in conjunction with the Chicago Community Trust. We greatly appreciate all who took time from their busy schedules to participate in discussions that aimed to inspire a healthier, vibrant, more generous and compassionate region. More photos are here. #onthetable2015

SSMMA Deputy Executive Director of Housing and Community Development Lakeshia Wright facilitated discussions surrounding the issue of vacancies–a direct result of the foreclosure crisis—that still affect many communities in the south suburbs. Main topics included:

  1. Where are vacant parcels mostly concentrated?

  2. What problems do they pose to communities?

  3. Whose problems are they anyway?

  4. What challenges do towns face in putting these parcels back into productive use?

  5. From the county, to the town, to the bank, to the next door neighbor, what can be done?

  6. Thinking outside the box, how can vacancies be re-purposed?

Guests seemed deeply committed to their communities. For instance, rather than view vacancies as headaches or major problems, they chose to see them as opportunities to re-shape and redefine their neighborhoods. Below are a hand full of the concerns and ideas that were shared.

1)      There is a need for marketing for all of the south suburban communities together with collaboration of as many players as possible. 2)      There is also a need for cooperation to achieve a regional housing vision. 3)      We need to overcome:

  1. Market conditions

  2. Tax issues

  3. Image

  4. Quality of education

  5. Transportation connectivity

  6. Availability of jobs

  7. Issues of rented homes vs owner-occupied

4)      Solutions for high vacancies:

  1. Aggressive demolition/de-construction / use of new deconstruction crews

  2. Suburban $1 side lot program

  3. New economic development initiatives

  4. Opportunity in Harvey

  5. Ingalls as anchor for potential homebuyers

  6. Strategic acquisition via the Employer Assisted Housing program

  7. Using vacant parcels for flood control/green infrastructure (rain gardens)

  8. Re-thinking the built environment

  9. Financing opportunity awareness

President Toni Preckwinkle, Lanco Industries and  SSMMA hosted a second On the Table  event at the Lanco Industries headquarters. Click here for a blog post by Cook County.

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