Now that the Cook County Land Bank is delaying offer letters to Riverside Lawn homeowners until possibly the end of June, we hope they’ll be a bit more flexible when it comes to those homeowners having to vacate their properties, should they accept the bids.
We can only imagine how tough a year it’s been for the folks in Riverside Lawn. It was just a year ago that the county approached the homeowners with the buyout plan, and since that time the residents have been at the end of a yo-yo string, alternately promised something by a deadline and then seeing that deadline slip by.
It’s not just about accepting an offer – and the homeowners are still holding their collective breath, dreading a hopelessly low-balled number – it’s about what happens next. Depending on what kind of offers they get, homeowners will then have just 30 days to map out a plan for their lives. Do they accept and begin the house hunt urgently or do they take a gamble and decline.
And, if they do decline, what happens then? How will insurance companies react to someone who turned down a buyout when the stated purpose of the buyout is to eliminate residences that are at risk? Who is going to give flood insurance to those who elect to stay now that they’ve been given a paid way out?
And if too few stay, how will they afford the cost of fire protection that’s now split between 45 or so property owners? Will Riverside Township or the county feel the need to maintain roads if just a handful of residents remain?
The sense we’re starting to get is that residents who decide to remain behind essentially will be on their own.
So, the least the Cook County Land Bank can do, after the months of delays residents have had to endure is to be flexible. The county is the only buyer, so there’s no one else competing for these properties and there’s no reason there should be a rush to have people move.
Residents have given the county and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District more than enough time to get their ducks in a row regarding the property offers. If homeowners give the OK to sell within the 30-day period, the county should allow homeowners the courtesy of leaving those homes when, within reason, it makes the most sense for the homeowner.
Some folks are able to leave right away. Others, who might have been able to leave during the summer, might not be able to do so easily come fall because of their job responsibilities.
Look, this is the end of a way of life for many of these families, and this has all come about very quickly.
Our guess is that most folks – now that the county has basically declared the area unfit for habitation – will opt to move. We hope the county keeps in mind that this isn’t just as simple as picking a new home out of catalog. In most cases, these folks don’t even know what kind of money they have to budget with at this point.
So, please, Cook County, have a heart.