Affordable Housing Expo Recap: Cook County Assessor

February 1, Georgios BanquetsCook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi took center stage and explained the role of the assessor’s office as it related to affordable housing markets. His primary speaking platformfor the Affordable Housing Expo were databases and incentive programs. Fritz Kaegi clarified the Cook County assessor’s office staff size versus the area they cover. It isn’t vast, humbly employing a couple hundred people. However, their office is responsible for projected 1.9 million property estimates 

Fritz Kaegi addressed attendees about developments at the assessor’s office regarding affordable housing incentive programs and their use of data to “make estimates more accurate across the entire price spectrum.” 

House Bill 2621 passed in July 2021 and immediately impacted the affordable housing market. It provided assessment relief to class three housing which is multi-family apartment buildings, seven units or over. This bill provided incentives to contractors and construction companies aimed at building, restoring and maintaining the supply of rental properties connected to people’s incomes.  

Regarding the Cook County assessor’s office use of data, Fritz Kaegi explained, “we could have the best models in the world for assessing a property’s value but our models are only as good as the data we put into them.” He addressed how vital up-to-date records are to the accurate pricing estimate placed on any property. Using the example of a renovated kitchen as an entry point Fritz Kaegi explained, “$30,000 in price difference on a $500,000 house is not nearly as significant as it is on a $120,000 house. A renovated kitchen changes how we value a household.” 

As he alluded to from the start of his platform Fritz Kaegi described to audiences how the assessor’s office continues to search for opportunities to effectively use housing data. The appraisal gap refers to homes at the bottom of the price spectrum, specifically households for Hispanic and Black families, where the appraisal prices are inaccurate. Closing this gap means finding more meaningful data to plug into the assessor’s office pricing estimate models. One such database the Cook County assessor’s office is using to close this gap is called the Uniform Appraisal Database (UAD), generating Uniform Appraisal Data Sets. Every time a mortgage is guaranteed by the government these Data Sets contain vital statistics about the quality and condition of a home.  

The top fifteen assessor’s offices in the nation requested and were granted a meeting with the White House to discuss the transparency of this database. The assessor’s initiated a conversation about granting access to the UAD so assessor’s offices nationwide could have access to the rating system for homes on a scale of one through six gauging condition and quality on a home. Having the rating for homes at the bottom of the price spectrum would help to reduce the number of homes inaccurately appraised.  

This is the second in a three-part series. Click here to read the first part of the series. Click here for more information and past blogs.