"Cook County is home to the nation’s third largest city, as well as some of the deepest economic craters left by the ongoing housing crisis," writes Chris Bentley. "Some 40,000 vacant units, many of them underwater, restrain economic development in the second-most populous county in the U.S."
With a unanimous vote last week to approve the creation of a countywide land bank, the Cook County is moving aggressively to help address its problematic properties and their negative neighborhood impacts, by following in the footsteps of other Midwestern localities such as Kansas City.
“We want to stem the rate of decline and the spread of blight that is happening not just in low-income communities,” said Herman Brewer, bureau chief of the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, “but middle-income and high-income communities where you’ve got abandoned McMansions.”
According to Bentley, "The roughly $15 million in seed money needed to start the operation will come from local foundations, not the county. Officials expect future activities will be self-funded, perhaps through property sales and rentals. Details will be hashed out over the next year, as the entity’s first expenditures go toward hiring a staff. After that the organization, which will be independent of County Board leadership, will begin to acquire property, forgive back taxes and vet prospective buyers who can credibly promise productive use for the land they wish to acquire."