By David Roeder
Land banks, agencies set up to acquire vacant and foreclosed homes and make them community assets once again, work in Michigan, Ohio and New York and the idea should get a tryout here, said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer.
She’s spent a fair amount of time on land banks, examining their impact elsewhere, considering models for governance and explaining the concept to mayors, developers and nonprofit groups. Gainer, who represents Cook County’s 10th District covering the North Side lakefront and Northwest Side, said she’s picking up support and hopes to bring a land bank ordinance to the County Board in a couple of months. She cited encouragement from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Land banks, she said, can deal with properties the marketplace has rejected. “There is such a disconnect out there,” she said. “You see people walking away from their homes, but there’s a long transition period to a new owner because of the backlog of foreclosures.” She said that in Cook County, it takes more than 500 days from the filing of a foreclosure to the awarding of a title.
That “limbo period” can hurt communities, she said, as neglected properties multiply.
Gainer said land banks can clear away title problems and back taxes, making properties attractive to buyers. Some major mortgage lenders, she said, are “chomping at the bit” to donate homes to such an agency.
A land bank here wouldn’t levy taxes and would be independent of any single government. Gainer has been looking at alternatives for private and public cooperation, perhaps having the program run by an experienced nonprofit group.