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What Will Be the Impact of Cook County’s ‘Land Bank’?

by Peter Thomas Ricci

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Cook County unanimously approved a land bank to handle its many vacant and abandoned REO properties; how successful will it be?

In an effort to manage its overwhelming supply of vacant and abandoned properties, the Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance to create a “land bank” to manage and repurpose the properties.

The largest such land bank in the U.S., the Cook County land bank will be responsible for overseeing the thousands of vacant lots in the second most populous county in the nation and returning them to tax-paying status.

Cook County Land Bank – Response to Distressed Property Influx

There are 85,000 foreclosure filings pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, up from just 15,000 in 2003, and roughly 90 percent of those filings end in default judgements, according to Cook County’s proposal for the land bank. As explained by HousingWire, here’s how the land bank intends to function:

  • Various professionals from the real estate and banking industries will comprise the 13-member board for the land bank, which will operate under the Land Bank Authority; Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County’s board president, will appoint the board members and hire staff for the land bank over the new few weeks.
  • The board members, once appointed, will then begin negotiating with banks and municipalities throughout Cook County to deal with vacant properties.
  • The land bank’s initial inventory will come from donations from the FHFA, lending institutions and communities; it expects to begin receiving properties in about a year.

How Successful Will the Land Bank Be?

Bridget Gainer, the Cook County commissioner who drafted the proposal for the land bank, said that though the land bank will not be a panacea for Cook County’s real estate woes, it will give the county greater flexibility in dealing with both its vacant homes and the communities they are located within.

“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,” Gainer said.

Frank DeNovi, though, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s REO director of operations, said much of the land bank’s success will derive from the 13-member board, though he’s not hopeful of Cook County’s handling of the properties.

“The 85,000 foreclosure filings pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County is their own fault for not having the staff to push these properties through the system – ‘ack of staffing, and the temporary moratorium on evictions, bottlenecked the system,” DeNovi said. “To have Cook County manage and repurpose vacant and abandoned properties within the Chicago area is like handing the inmates the keys to the asylum.”

But what’s your take? Is this a good first step for remedying Cook County’s problems, or a mere gesture that won’t make much of an impact? Let us know in the comments section.

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