“I graduated from the University of Illinois in Chicago with my degree in civil engineering. Then I did a few years in the engineering department designing gas pipelines in the city of Chicago.”

“Eventually, I studied and got my professional engineer license.”

“I also bought my first property in Lyons, which was a three-flat, and I lived in it, and I fixed it up. It was in really bad shape. But I learned a lot of skills of how to fix things up: fixing drywall, mudding, sanding, painting, replaced boiler pumps or gas valves, electrical outlets and light switches – just about everything that you needed to be done.”

“I did a lot of work on that house, and I thought, ‘I’m pretty good at fixing properties and if I can take very damaged property and transform it and add good people in there, it benefits not just the property but also the community.’”

“Eventually, I found another three-flat which needed to be fixed up here in Elmwood Park. Similar kind of situation, but it wasn’t quite as bad as the first one. And this is where I currently reside. I moved into this one, and we’re fixing this one up while renting the other one.”

“Around 2019, I saw this property down in Thornton on the market listed for $170,000. And it didn’t have a lot of pictures, so you could tell it needed some work.”

“We went there and looked at the place and found many things wrong with it. The gutters were broken or filled with overflowing trash and filth. We noticed broken electrical outlets and other electrical work was needed. Two vacant units were filled with garbage and puddles of water from leaks and general lack of maintenance.”

“The last time it was remodeled and renovated was about the 1950s or 1960s, so there was a lot to do to bring it up to date with modern standards of living.”

“The property had a lot of things going against it. But I thought, ‘I know how to fix things and improve things, and I can see potential in this place and fixing it up.’”

“We offered $120,000 because at $170,000 I couldn’t pay $50,000 per unit. They all lacked basic amenities expected in modern apartment such as good flooring, drywall or proper plumbing. With lower-quality units, you can’t charge as much rent because it’s not worth as much, and you have to pay less for it. I said I’d be willing to pay maybe $20,000 a unit because this house needed at least $20,000 per unit in renovations.”

“They didn’t accept it and it sat on the market for several months, but nobody wanted it. Finally, the sellers came back with a counteroffer and we negotiated to $125,000.”

“My [monthly] payment on this property is $3,030. The principal is only $600 and the interest is only $400, but my taxes are $1,650. So more than half of what I’m paying [every month] is just taxes.”

“Cook County has one of the highest tax rates in the whole country. And the average tax rate in Cook County is 2% approximately of property value. I’m paying 16%.”

“My recourse is asking them to assess it fairly. And they’re just throwing my appeal out the window like it doesn’t exist.”

“I see potential in fixing it up because I want to add value to the community, but I’ll have to sell the property.”

“I can’t afford it because I can’t raise rents enough to cover the renovations and the taxes.”

“We already started to invest some money in doing minor repairs. But changes to drywall, flooring, countertops or cabinets, which the house sorely needs, are big-dollar renovations.”

“Paying $1,650 just in taxes every month, I just can’t afford to do those renovations.”

“My tenants deserve better.”

“This is impacting the people that live there. I can’t afford to invest in the property because I’m acting as blood drive to the county for taxes. This affects the tenants and the community.”

“I can’t provide a high-quality unit. So, the county is essentially stealing from the towns. High taxes drive the money out. And I can’t reinvest. I can’t reinvest in the property, or the community, and no one else can afford to, either.”

“So many people are just leaving – crossing the border to Indiana where their tax bill will be half. They’re leaving: abandoning the properties, and it’s impacting the community negatively down there.”

“$20,000 annually in property taxes is what you pay for on a mansion. This is not a mansion.”

“This is a property in poor condition that I know I can fix up if I can make the numbers work. Due to the tax rate, I can’t make the numbers work, and myself and the community all suffer because of it.”

Vincent Mazzaferro
Engineer
Elmwood Park, Illinois