Despite influx of funds, vacant housing increases in county

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA: Since the housing market crashed in 2007, the cities of Champaign and Urbana have received more than $2 million in state and federal dollars to combat vacant and nuisance housing. Yet the number of empty houses is still climbing. As of 2014, one in every 10 housing units in Champaign County sat vacant, according to the most recent U.S. census data available. That total number, 8,700, was nearly double the number of vacant housing units in the year 2000. Each year, Champaign puts at least $20,000 into demolishing homes across the city.

Champaign targets certain neighborhoods for demolition

These houses make up about 5 percent of vacant houses citywide, but represent the worst of the worst, officials said. Those are houses with repeated code violations, safety issues or are home to criminal activity. The monitored homes are largely located in more troubled neighborhoods because city staff closely monitors those areas.

Co-ops, retirement villages benefit from homeowners exemptions

Landlords of single properties are not the only ones getting tax breaks under the General Homestead Exemption.

Companies that own cooperative apartments or retirement life-care communities also can get multiple exemptions under state law.

Despite routine inspections, keeping certified campus housing safe remains constant challenge

By Janelle O’Dea and Robert Holly/ — At the Theta Chi fraternity house last fall, Champaign city inspectors found 81 fire and life-safety violations, including holes in bedroom floors and inoperative emergency-exit signs. At the Chi Psi fraternity house, city inspectors cited 76 violations, including a leaky roof and multiple propped-open fire doors. Lookup inspection scores and read reportsAt Phi Sigma Kappa, inspectors discovered 69 violations, specifically citing violations for improperly stored propane tanks and for a fire pit located within 10 feet of bushes outside of the house. Overall, 57 of 61 Greek houses in both Champaign and Urbana had violations during initial fire-safety inspections last fall. Inspectors also examined an additional 15 non-Greek properties, and 14 of them had violations reported during their first inspections.

Gov’t Watch: City of Urbana program works to fund housing opportunities

Lyanne Alfaro/For — Two more low-income Champaign-Urbana families will soon each have new homes. The new housing is a result of one of the many programs overseen by the City of Urbana Community Development Services. This year, the department reapproved Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County as a Community Housing Development Organization. As a housing development organization, Habitat can use federal funds to build affordable homes for the families. The department approved Habitat for $70,000 last spring.