Home Grown

Finance

Cook County Land Bank Authority

Cook County

Goal

To support neighborhood and regional community stabilization efforts through the acquisition and redevelopment of vacant, abandoned, foreclosed or tax-delinquent properties

Target

Residential, commercial and industrial buildings; properties that are vacant, abandoned, foreclosed and/or tax-delinquent

Financing

Grants, private commitments and revenue from land bank transactions

Success

In its first year of operation, the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) has:

  • Negotiated a $10 million loan commitment from The Private Bank to finance acquisition and rehab of distressed homes for first-time home buyers, as well as first-time home buyer counseling and program administration.
  • Developed a comprehensive demolition/deconstruction strategy to conserve building materials, create jobs and repurpose vacant land by partnering with Cook County Dept. of Economic Development, Dept. of Environmental Control, Delta Institute and others to coordinate efforts for maximum efficiency and impact.
  • Received $250,000 grant from Housing Development Authority through a competitive process to secure and remove blighted and abandoned properties.
  • Helped negotiate a comprehensive agreement with Federal Housing Finance Agency to address Fannie/Freddie-owned property in Cook County.
  • Engaged in extensive outreach and established strong relationships with municipalities, industry trade groups, community organizations and experienced local nonprofit and for-profit developers.
  • Established formal partnerships with nonprofit developers, municipal organizations and others to acquire and repurpose specific properties, in furtherance of local community and economic development strategies.

Lessons learned

Land banks operate with different constraints and resources across the country. CCLBA has been operationalized to incorporate best practices from other land banks under the jurisdiction of different state and county codes unique to Illinois. CCLBA may benefit from amendments to statutes that formally recognize and accommodate the unique role of land banks in Illinois, and which simplify the acquisition and disposition process when land banks are involved.

Cook County has more than 130 local governments and myriad agencies of government at the state, county and local level. CCLBA benefits from the strong network of interconnected public sector alliances and coalitions, which are often fostered and reinforced by public-private partnerships and regional organizations, including planning organizations and councils of government. This network has proved very useful to getting CCLBA off to a strong start.

CCLBA benefits from having an independent board of directors, comprised of individuals representing diverse and varied backgrounds, professional interests and perspectives. Once empowered to act, the board is able to exercise appropriate levels of direction and supervision, without subjecting its decisions to additional bureaucratic or deliberative processes. CCLBA can thus serve as a single-purpose entity focused on its primary mission.

CCLBA has operated successfully at the neighborhood and community level by crafting agreements and engaging in deliberative outreach with local stakeholders. To fully engage the more than 50,000 parcels of vacant, tax-delinquent, foreclosed and abandoned property, CCLBA will be able to build on the foundation established in year one to engage in wholesale acquisition and disposition strategies, as well as to participate in deals involving more complex pieces of property and regional redevelopment strategies.

Background

Formed in 2013, CCLBA is a housing and economic development tool used to return vacant residential, commercial and industrial property to productive use. The ordinance establishing CCLBA followed a lengthy civic engagement process that included the input of hundreds of diverse stakeholders, the results of which Cook County and the Urban Land Institute summarized in two separate reports they produced. CCLBA is a unit of Cook County government and is the largest land bank by geography in the country. Under its enabling ordinance and Land Transactions Policy, the land bank will acquire, hold and convey property across Cook County to support the redevelopment and reuse of vacant and troubled property and promote neighborhood stabilization.

How it works

CCLBA operates under the direction of a Board of Directors appointed by the President of Cook County. CCLBA works in collaboration with municipalities and other partners to acquire properties through purchase, donation, forfeiture and other types of transfers. The land bank makes a concerted effort to develop relationships with municipal staff and officials, community stakeholders, and others to ensure that acquisitions and any subsequent disposition strategies are in alignment with local community revitalization strategies. A memorandum of understanding can be used to formalize a relationship between the land bank and one or more municipalities, though it is not required.

After acquiring a property, the CCLBA may demolish or deconstruct a structure or secure it for rehabilitation and redevelopment. CCLBA also works to preserve and create affordable housing, promote economic development and job creation and conserve property and building materials. CCLBA also encourages best use for vacant land through support for community greening, urban agriculture and stormwater management. Land bank properties are exempt from property taxes, and can be held for a specific period of time until they are ready to be conveyed for development, demolition or deconstruction. CCLBA is also able to abate back taxes if the property is acquired through one of several specific avenues, including foreclosure of a municipal lien, deed in lieu of foreclosure and no-cash bids. CCLBA does not have the authority to abate back taxes for properties that were purchased or donated under current state statute.

CCLBA regularly conducts feasibility studies to determine the financial benefits and risks of acquiring a property. Individuals, organizations and municipalities that are interested in conveying property to the land bank are required to fill out an application, which includes important property descriptors such as property type and PIN number, as well as disclosures that assist the land bank in making an informed decision on whether or not to move forward in the acquisition process. Individuals, organizations and municipalities that are seeking to acquire a property from CCLBA must also complete an application outlining their intended use for the property, and explain how the acquisition fits into broader municipal and community-led revitalization efforts. All properties are listed on the CCLBA’s website, which is updated in real time, to ensure a transparent disposition process.

The CCLBA is currently funded with grant monies, though it intends to become financially self-sufficient through earned income and revenues generated from program activities. To date, CCLBA has generated more than $130,000 in new income from the small but growing number of properties it has acquired.

Contact

Cook County Land Bank Authority
312-870-9799, info@cookcountylandbank.org, www.cookcountylandbank.org

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