We all drive by them—properties that have long stood empty with dark windows and deteriorating exteriors. Vacant and abandoned properties are often the result of foreclosure. For those living in areas where the sight of an empty house is more common, or those who have gone through foreclosure themselves, things may seem unlikely to improve. In Illinois, a state with one of the highest numbers of foreclosures in 2012, the recent establishment of a land bank in Cook County offers hope for these communities.
Vacant or abandoned properties are often the result of economic hardships, foreclosures and declining real estate markets which have characterized the past few years. The longer these devalued properties are on the market or remain tax liabilities, the more they adversely impact the neighborhoods around them. To battle this problem that has plagued states like Illinois, the Cook County Board unanimously voted the Land Bank Authority into existence. Its establishment came after over a year of behind-the-scenes work and support from real estate professionals, banks and municipal leaders. The Land Bank Authority aims to become an independent organization devoted to the revitalization of vacant properties, with the long-term impact of mitigating declining property values in Cook County.
Land Bank Authority Organization
According to an article from Progress Illinois, the Authority will obtain vacant or abandoned properties in order to redevelop them into tax-contributing entities to be purchased by new owners. It will consist of 13 appointed board members, each serving three-year terms.
At first, outside groups will fund land bank relief measures the form of grants. Using monies from these grants, the Authority will purchase and develop properties, starting with the communities that have been hit hardest. Over time, the organization strives for self-sufficiency, projecting an eventual annual budget of $5 to $10 million.
What the Land Bank Means for Cook County
The article emphasizes that Cook County has been especially burdened, with over 90,000 foreclosure filings in the past four years and a 3% rise coinciding with an overall national decline in foreclosures. Given the large geographical area under the land bank—the largest in the country—its establishment has the potential to make a positive impact on property values in the Cook County area, which in turn may benefit Illinois overall.
Cook County residents who are already facing foreclosure may wonder if the Land Bank Authority will be able to directly change their situation. As Dean Michael Pagano of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Urban Planning notes in the article, the land bank “may not halt the foreclosures.” A person in foreclosure could still lose his or her property and would benefit from consulting a foreclosure defense attorney.
In most cases, the revenue a land bank receives through the processes of foreclosure or tax collection is used for further revitalization efforts in the immediate locale. This contrasts with the more common scenario, where the entity that acquires and flips the property profits privately, sometimes outside of the state or municipality. Pagano indicates that the Land Bank Authority may have the potential to “slow the decline of value” by showing the people of Cook County that something is being done to help make vacant properties productive again.
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