Cook County one step closer to tackling looming foreclosure problem

Legislation to bring a land bank to Chicago passed preliminary vote

January 15, 2013

Judith Ruiz-Branch

Flicker/sven diagram
Cook County officials get the first approval in bringing a land bank to tackle high foreclosures in the area

Officials say they are one step closer to tackling Cook County’s lagging housing recovery.

In a unanimous vote today, a preliminary committee passed legislation that aims to reduce foreclosures through a land bank.

The land bank would reduce the number of vacant lots and buildings in the area and restore them so they can be used again.

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer is one of the sponsor’s of the legislation, along with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Gainer said there are a lot of people concerned about the issue of vacant houses in the county and a lot of people that are addressing the issue, but not one agency that focuses solely on abandoned properties and restoring them.

“It’s a ripple effect,” she said. “It’s not just the person who loses their home, but then it’s the neighbor who lives next to a vacant home... and then it’s the business on the corner that is now in a neighborhood that they worry about... and ultimately it ripples all the way up to the tax base of Cook County.”

Gainer says she and her colleagues have seen the problem first-hand.

“One of the interesting things that I’ve learned, as I started the process was, there’s not one community that in Cook County that doesn’t have an issue with foreclosures, even the wealthiest ones,” she said.

John Broadbooks is communications director for the Illinois Association of Realtors. He says the land bank may be an "interesting experiment."

“This might be a viable way to address some of the blighted properties in the Chicago-area,” he said.

The land bank proposal will go to the board for one last vote Wednesday.