Cook County approves land bank to curb blight

The Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance to create the nation’s largest geographical land bank that will acquire, manage and repurpose vacant and abandoned properties within the Chicago area.

In December, HousingWire reported on the progress of the land bank that is expected to help solve the county’s housing woes.

The land bank will have the single goal of returning vacant and foreclosed property back to an active and reliable tax-paying status. The land bank will also help to both reduce unproductive expenditures and increase local government revenue.

Currently, there are 85,000 foreclosure filings pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, up from 15,000 ten years ago. About 90% of the filings end in default judgments, according to the land bank proposal by commissioner Bridget Gainer.

Gainer first introduced the land bank proposal more than a year ago to deal with the foreclosed/vacant buildings within the county.

“I feel very gratified that the land bank has taken the first step to reality, but the same sense of urgency that drove me to start down this path — the realization that we have communities in Cook County that are reaching a tipping point of survival and others that are losing the wonderful qualities that have made them home to generations of Chicagoans and suburbanites is fading. That sense of urgency drives me to get the best board and the most talented executive director and start the actual work,” Gainer told HousingWire.

A 13-member board will oversee the Land Bank Authority and will be comprised of members from various industries including real estate and banking.

Over the next few weeks, Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle will appoint members to the board to begin the process of hiring staff and establishing procedures to support its operations.

This will allow for the members to start negotiations with banks and municipalities around acquisitions so that blocks, neighborhoods and communities can be revitalized.

The initial property inventory will be primarily sourced from real-estate owned donations or otherwise conveyed by financial institutions, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, servicers as well as city and counties excess public land inventory.

The land bank will begin receiving properties in about a year.

“The land bank is not going to be a silver bullet, but will give us the ability to execute a comprehensive regional plan to address not just the vacant homes, but the communities that surround them,” Gainer said.

She added, “The land bank will incentivize development, promote sustainable homeownership and create rental opportunities, all while keeping communities at the table for the planning and redevelopment of their neighborhoods. In short – our goal is that it will make our communities great places to live.”


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