CALUMET CITY | Alderman Thaddeus Jones wants the City Council to back him in creating a program in which the city could have greater control over rental properties.
The 3rd Ward alderman said he is aware of instances where rental properties that once were valued at about $350,000 have been sold by owners for “$80,000 or less,” which Jones said hurts the long-term value of property in Calumet City.
“We need to get involved and help set the market,” Jones said.
To that end, the City Council’s public utilities and ordinance & resolution committees met Thursday and heard a presentation from attorney Mark Sterk, who has worked with municipal governments in Northbrook, Alsip and Justice when those communities tried to bolster rental properties.
Sterk particularly cited his law firm’s involvement in Northbrook to help that village when it bought a series of rental properties that had become problem areas. Sterk went so far as to call them “ratholes.”
The village combined those properties into a single plot, then leased it to Catholic Charities for 99 years at a cost of $1. The organization built a 72-unit complex for senior citizens that Sterk said has upgraded Northbrook’s image significantly.
“If I were thinking of retiring, I’d not be adverse to moving there,” Sterk told the Calumet City aldermen.
Jones said he could see having the city acquire rental properties and turn them over to developers who could build improved structures.
But Sterk told the aldermen they ought to focus their efforts.
“You should identify the parts of town you want to fix up,” he told them, adding he wants to meet with the city’s Code Enforcement and Police departments to figure out which properties the city ought to try to acquire.
Once such a meeting is held, Sterk said, he would come again before the City Council to seek its direction.
Jones said it is likely the aldermen would be asked to vote for a specific program or proposal at that time, and he also suggested that city officials approach the various school districts in Calumet City to get them involved in any effort. “It’s their tax base that’s being affected, too,” he said.
Aldermen said they wanted more time to review the situation before taking any kind of vote.
“We need to think things through,” 6th Ward Alderman Nick Manousopoulos said.
City Treasurer Gerald Tarka pointed out that Calumet City government has, in the past, bought some properties that otherwise would have been left abandoned. Yet city officials have been unable to find the proper developer to do anything with the land.
“We reduced a lot of blight … but you need a majority of a block to make it viable for a developer,” Tarka said. The city “owns so much land that people could raise sheep south of Pulaski Road.”