CHICAGO — The Cook County Board created one of the nation's largest land banks Wednesday to help neighborhoods better deal with vacant properties.
The program was expected to be self-sustaining after being launched with $15 million in seed money to be raised through local foundations and grants, and it was designed to stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods troubled by foreclosures.
According to the Office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, land banks are a growing redevelopment tool nationwide. They're intended to buy up vacant properties, rehabilitate them and sell them off, in the process returning them to the tax rolls.
“This landmark ordinance will help the county combat the foreclosure crisis that has decimated communities," Preckwinkle said. "We are going to work hand in hand with communities throughout the county to ensure the Land Bank Authority is effective and sustainable."
The County Board Wednesday passed an ordinance creating the Cook County Land Bank Authority. It will be overseen by a 13-member body appointed by Preckwinkle along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who will choose one member.
"The land bank will provide another tool to strategically bring vacant buildings into productive use in cities and towns throughout Cook County," Emanuel said.
"Foreclosure doesn’t just affect the one vacant home. It is a ripple effect that impacts the neighbors on the block, the businesses in the community and ultimately undermines the tax base of the county,” said Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-Chicago), the board's top sponsor of the measure. “It’s time to bring a market-facing, comprehensive approach, and the land bank will do that."
She added that it was not a "silver bullet," but an innovation that "will incentivize development, promote sustainable homeownership and create rental opportunities, all while keeping our communities at the table for the planning and redevelopment."
The county is believed to be the largest in the nation to establish a land bank.