Sweet Home Chicago weighs in on Cook County land bank

Cook County is considering the creation of a land bank to convert vacant or foreclosed properties back into productive use. Sweet Home Chicago became interested in the concept of land banks after visiting Cleveland and learning about how a land bank there was used as a tool to create affordable housing.

In July, the Cook County Board voted to create an advisory committee to make recommendations about how a land bank might work in the county. Sweet Home Chicago pushed for a representative on the committee and Julie Dworkin, CCH’s policy director, was appointed to serve. 

The committee consists of 20 representatives from city, county, and state government, banks, civic and community organizations, housing experts, foundations, and law firms.  The first meeting on Oct. 3 focused on getting the committee up to speed on land bank models and current practices in Cook County government. The Center for Community Progress, the leading organization providing technical assistance to localities developing land banks, came in to provide education for the group.

The second meeting, held Oct. 18, focused on creating a set of guiding principles for the land bank.  Priorities were discussed, including increasing affordable housing and workforce development opportunities. There was also a discussion of potential revenue streams and the need for a long-term sustainable source of revenue for the land bank. A final set of priorities and principles, as well as recommendation for funding, will be decided at a future meeting.