BPI has worked to address the devastation wrought by the foreclosure crisis and the Great Recession by helping to create programs that will return large numbers of vacant properties to productive use. In 2012, the Cook County Board of Commissioners took a major step forward. Under the leadership of Commissioner Bridget Gainer and President Toni Preckwinkle, the Board created the Cook County Land Bank to deal with the more than 200,000 housing units that now sit vacant across the county. And with more than 85,000 local foreclosure cases in the court system, the number will only increase. Vacant properties drive up crime, drive down property values, and weaken the tax base, thus driving up taxes for other homeowners and businesses and imposing enormous costs on already struggling local governments.
For the last several years, BPI has been the leading proponent of establishing the Cook County Land Bank as an effective strategy for dealing with the multiple ills caused by vacant properties. We’ve argued that to take on a problem this broad and deep, the County needs powerful tools, dedicated staff, and extensive support from a wide range of stakeholders. A land bank brings these critical elements together.
What will the Cook County Land Bank do? It will acquire vacant properties, make sure they are well-maintained, and then work to return them to productive use. Properties can be used for everything from creating new community gardens to increasing affordable housing to spurring commercial development. Working strategically and in close collaboration with local governments and community partners, the Land Bank will help stop the downward spiral decimating the hardest hit communities, sow the seeds of economic revitalization, and spur major redevelopment initiatives.
Now, with $6 million in start-up funding (proceeds from the Illinois Attorney General’s settlement with mortgage servicers), the Cook County Land Bank is set to launch, BPIC plans to work closely with the Land Bank as it embarks on its vital work.
“It’s one thing to recognize a problem or even to have a vision to solve it. It’s an entirely different thing to harness intellect, tenacity, and credibility on the ground to bring vision to reality. BPI has done that and more to help create the Cook County Land Bank.
We could not have moved as far and as fast without BPI. Our ongoing partnership will help ensure that the Cook County Land Bank will be the change we want to see in our city and county.” -Bridget Gainer, Commissioner, Cook County Board of Commissioners
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