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Expert To Testify On Dangers Of Vacant Houses

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Banks and other lenders would be forced to maintain vacant foreclosed buildings like these under a proposed ordinance backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (Credit: CBS)

Banks and other lenders would be forced to maintain vacant foreclosed buildings like these under a proposed ordinance backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Residents call them “trap houses” — vacant and abandoned homes where they say bad things happen.

“We heard about dog fights, drug deals, shooting galleries, women and children being pulled in and raped and molested,” said Lynn Todman, an expert at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Lisa Fielding reports


Todman conducted an 18-month study on the effects these vacant buildings have on Englewood residents.

“What we found was that people were very fearful of these places, they were fearful of living near them, walking near them. It caused stress and anxiety because of what happens in these places,” she said.

Todman will appear before the City Council’s joint Committee on Housing and Real Estate and Zoning, at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers.

By urging policymakers to strengthen the city’s vacant buildings ordinance, the Adler School is working to improve the well-being of community residents.

A proposed ordinance will hold lending institutions responsible for the upkeep of properties foreclosed upon.

As it stands, property can sit for years when no one technically “owns” the home, so no one is responsible for upkeep. The city has had problems with enforcement because ownership of abandoned buildings had been difficult to track.

Under the proposed change to the city’s vacant property registration ordinance, banks would be considered owners, whether they are foreclosing on the property or not.

The city spent more than $15 million in 2010 to deal with vacant buildings, according to the administration. More than 500 buildings were demolished or boarded up by the Department of Buildings, costing the city $13.7 million.

According to the Chicago Department of Buildings, about 8,000 of the estimated vacant 12,500 buildings in the city are registered with the city’s vacant property registry.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to support a measure that would require banks to secure and maintain vacant buildings.

In the past, aldermen were worried about how to enforce the law because many banks are located outside of Illinois, sometimes outside the country.

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