Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer today introduced legislation creating a Cook County Land Bank Authority, an agency of the County tasked with acquiring vacant and abandoned properties throughout the region to seek to return them to productive use.
The Cook County Land Bank Authority, created under the County’s home rule authority, is designed to address the critical problems facing communities as a result of the foreclosure crisis. It will ultimately serve as the main tool used by state and local governments to address foreclosure. Its initial focus will be on three key areas related to neighborhood stabilization: demolition of blighted properties, property maintenance, and the establishment of a single-family rental program.
“A Cook County land bank is a critical step towards stemming the foreclosure crisis in our communities and protecting residents in a difficult economy,” President Preckwinkle said. “By returning vacant and abandoned property to productive use, we can eradicate blight in distressed neighborhoods, promote open spaces and improve property values for homeowners. This is an important step towards strengthening our housing market, and one of my top priorities in the coming year.”
As the Cook County Land Bank Authority becomes fully functional, it is expected to derive funding from a range of sources including County money, grants from foundations, and in-kind support from stakeholders.
“From the first calls I received three years ago from constituents going through foreclosure to the passage of the vacant building ordinance in 2011 to today’s introduction of what will be the largest land bank in the country, Cook County is evolving from reactive regulation to proactive economic development,” said Gainer (D-10th). “The Cook County Land Bank will be an essential tool in breaking the grip of vacancy and foreclosure on our region.”
The Land Bank Authority will be governed by a 13-member Board of Directors. President Preckwinkle and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will each appoint one representative. A Cook County Commissioner, two local elected officials from suburban Cook County and other individuals who represent groups such as banking, real estate, development and open spaces also will serve on the board. The Board of Directors will be unpaid.
The introduction of the ordinance creating the Land Bank came after months of work consideration and analysis from the County’s Land Bank Advisory Council, a group created by President Preckwinkle that submitted detailed recommendations to the County on the role, structure and governance of a Cook County Land Bank. The group was chaired by Mary Sue Barrett, President of the Metropolitan Planning Council.
There will be a public meeting on the proposed ordinance January 15, 2013 in the Cook County Board Room.