City officials may encourage apartment-to-condo conversions

2013-06-16T00:00:00Z City officials may encourage apartment-to-condo conversionsGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CALUMET CITY | Third Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones says he wants his City Council colleagues to craft a program this year that encourages the conversion of apartment buildings to condominiums.

Jones on Thursday used his report to the City Council to talk of the research he has done on the issue, adding he’d like to see the city support his desires.

“The city has the option of supporting this kind of program,” said Jones. “It would give us great stability within the community.”

Jones said he would like to see aldermen spend the rest of the year discussing this issue, with the possibility of a program to help with apartment conversions to be approved by year’s end.

Then, he would want to see meetings between city officials and landlords early next year to work out the specifics of conversion.

Jones said he does not envision all of the roughly 3,000 apartments in Calumet City being converted at once.

He sees it as a process by which a set percentage of rental properties would be converted to condominiums — which are owned by their residents rather than rented — each year, with the possibility that the process would be complete by about the year 2017.

“This is something we would want to phase in,” Jones said.

If city officials proceed with this desire, they would have the advantage of having as their city attorney a law firm that is experienced with the issue.

Attorney Burt Odelson said his law firm assisted west suburban Northlake when that city engaged in efforts to reduce the number of rental properties it has.

In some cases, the city acquired several properties and turned them over to a developer for construction of a condominium.

In one case, Odelson said that Northlake, “took a whole block, turned it around and made it into something beautiful.”

Odelson said he’d like to see the City Council hold committee hearings this summer on the issue with the possibility that Northlake officials could come to share their expertise with Calumet City officials.

He also suggested that Calumet City officials look into an option that Northlake did — acquiring a $1.7 million grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Money was used to let the city purchase residential properties in flood plain areas.

Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush said she was aware of that particular grant option and city officials have thought about trying to get similar funds to deal with properties right along the levee on the Calumet City side of the Little Calumet River.

Although she admits it might be perceived by the public as trying to force people out of their properties for less than market value. Because with property values dropping due to the poor economy, some people owe more than their land currently is worth.

“We don’t want to appear to be 'eminent domaining’ their properties,” Qualkinbush said.

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