Austin homeowners could lose their property at tax auction

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There are more than 3,000 properties in Cook County’s District 1 – much of it on Chicago’s West Side – in danger of being sold at the annual tax auction that begins May 3. Over 100 of these homes have been identified as being owned by seniors, according to Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

He and his staff went door to door earlier this year to visit the properties in danger of being sold.

“As an elected leader, it’s important to me that the residents of my district are reached and made aware of the services available to them,” Johnson said in a statement.

“We can’t rely on our elders checking social media or going online to find out what they owe. This constituency deserves a more coordinated effort. Over the last few years their properties have been seized by tax scavengers and others who take advantage of a flawed system.”

Johnson said he wanted to make sure residents knew about the tax exemptions available to them and assure them they can rely on his office to be the bridge of communication between the Cook County treasurer’s and assessor’s offices.

The commissioner also sent staff to each property identified as being owned by a senior citizen to make sure they knew their options and to help them develop a plan so they won’t lose their property.

Cook County’s Senior Citizen Exemption provides tax relief by reducing the equalized assessed valuation of an eligible residence. This savings is in the form of a deduction on the second-installment real estate tax bill.

To qualify for this exemption for tax year 2018, a taxpayer must have:

• been born prior to or in the year 1953,

• owned the property during 2018 or have a lease or contract for 2018 that makes them responsible for the real estate taxes, and

• used the property as his or her principal place of residence in 2018. Beginning last year, a new law increased savings for the Senior Exemption from $5,000 to $8,000 in Equalized Assessed Value (EAV).

“We intend to follow up with the homeowners we met with and make sure they are taking advantage of the programs available to them to save their homes,” Johnson said. “The system has been jacked up for a long time. It’s easy to see why so many moderate- to low-income homeowners are losing their properties. This is like a shell game.”

Countywide, taxes totaling $189.6 million on 56,976 properties are scheduled to be auctioned at the annual tax sale that begins May 3, according to Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.

Lists of all the properties, by municipality and Chicago ward, can be found here

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