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Chicago Vacant Buildings Ordinance Nets $619,000 For City In 3 Months: Report

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An ordinance approved last fall by the Chicago City Council that required financial institutions to maintain and secure foreclosed, vacant homes in their care appears to be responsible for a sizable, new contribution to the city's coffers.

In the first three months of 2012, the city has collected $619,000 in fines from financial institutions -- more than double what they collected over a similar time period last year -- because of the ordinance, WBEZ reports. Further, the number of vacant properties registered with the city is up considerably -- from 2,883 registered between November and April last year to 4,436 over the past six months.

The fines -- 2,500 in total -- were split between more than 150 financial institutions who were found to have fallen short of the maintenance requirements laid out in the ordinance, CBS Chicago reports.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined the data on vacant Chicago properties in a letter sent to Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd), who sponsored the ordinance on the matter last year, according to WBEZ.

The data was released on the heels of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, returning to court in their ongoing battle against the city ordinance, the Chicago Tribune reports. The agency, which initially filed its lawsuit in December, argues that their financial institutions should not be held responsible for maintaining the properties, while the city contends that the banks don't have a case.

"We did exactly what we were supposed to do, rightfully, for our neighborhood, our community, and our residents of our city," Emanuel previously told WBEZ.

The Woodstock Institute previously estimated that it costs the city $36 million to maintain and process "red flag" properties where mortgage servicers started the foreclosure process and then decided not to complete it, in order to avoid taking on the responsibility of maintaining and securing the home. The institute estimates the number of vacant properties to be approaching 20,000 -- still far more than those currently registered with the city.

Last fall, five women -- ages ranging from 56 to 80 -- were arrested at a downtown Bank of America branch after they dumped bags of trash from foreclosed properties into the bank and refused to leave the building. A clean-up crew had collected the furniture -- labeled "Property of Bank of America" -- and garbage from an unsecured BoA-owned vacant property in Garfield Park.

One of the protesters -- Gloria Washington, 80 -- told The Huffington Post that her activism was inspired by concerns for the safety of her children and grandchildren.

"These kids shouldn’t have to walk by dangerous, abandoned properties on their way to school," Washington said last fall. "Bank of America’s bad loans and greedy practices have made our neighborhoods unsafe, and it’s time they took responsibility for all the damage they’ve done.”

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