Now that the speculative rampage of the past few years has ended, we are now stuck with cleaning up the detritus left behind as the tide ebbed: falling prices, a vast glut of unsold homes and condos, a wave of interest rate adjustments on 'creative' mortgages, and most of all, a vast and increasing number of recent buyers saddled with shoddily built or illegally converted homes and condos.
Evidently, the legal processes that are in place to protect buyers from dangerously shoddy construction and gross financial and legal malfeasance on the part of builders and sellers collapsed along with lending standards as developers scrambled to meet the frantic demand of the boom years. We now see that our elected representatives and our city officials failed to protect buyers from flagrant dishonesty and incompetence on the part of builders and developers, and as a result, thousands of Chicagoans are left to deal with the failures and outright dishonesty and malfeasance of developers. These failures include, but are not limited to, construction so shoddy the dwelling cannot be occupied, illegal conversions in which the buyers discovers he has no legal ownership, and failure to correct previous code violations before offering the property for sale.
The north lakefront wards, most prominantly the 49th (Rogers Park) and 48th (Edgewater) are the sites of some of the most egregious violations. One of the worst cases involves an illegal conversion at 1060 W. Granville, a haphazardly rehabbed courtyard building in which units were sold to unwary buyers before being cleared for conversion, creating a legal and financial quagmire from which it is unlikely the unfortunate buyers will emerge for many years. Elsewhere, in the 49th ward, many buyers of condominiums sold as rehabilitated and completely clear of violations, have discovered that their buildings have serious physical deficiencies and/or are classified as "gang and drug" harbors only when the local alderman decides to mount a campaign of harrassment against the buyer. In most cases, the deficient units were cleared by the city for sale and went through every stage of the sale process, including intense scrutiny by the buyers' attorneys, with no evidence of any problem. In yet other cases, newly constructed homes and condos have been so shoddily built that in at least one case, that of an expensive , newly constructed condo building in Bucktown, buyers were forced to move out of their units because the building was in immenent danger of collapse.
Where were the people we pay to enforce the laws and the building codes, and otherwise protect us from dishonest and incompetent builders?
Our city officials, from our local aldermen through the laggards occupying desks in the various city departments charged with inspection, licensing, and the issuing of permits, have failed miserably to protect us, and as a result, thousands of Chicagoans are confronting massive and often unrecoverable losses, and years of costly litigation that most likely will come nowhere near making them whole. In the meantime, flagrantly unqualified and verifiably dishonest developers and builders are permitted to continue their careers.
Municipal elections are less than a week away, and when we go to vote this coming Tuesday, February 27, we should all consider if Joe Moore and his compatriots in the city council have done what they could to protect their constituents from victimization by the developers who are often their largest campaign contributors.