Woodstock president Dory Rand testified in support of the ordinance at the hearing. “A land bank is necessary for stabilizing vacant homes and recovering from the foreclosure crisis,” Rand said in her testimony. “A Cook County Land Bank would help attract responsible investors to hard-hit areas, ensure that economic recovery supports community priorities, and make neighborhoods impacted by foreclosures more attractive and secure places to live.”


The Cook County Land Bank would be a redevelopment authority that would stabilize the region’s housing market by acquiring, managing, developing, and transferring vacant and distressed properties. The Land Bank could acquire property by receiving a transfer of property from the government, receiving donations from financial institutions, purchasing properties, or offering no-cash bids at the scavenger sale (where delinquent property taxes are sold). After acquiring property, the Land Bank could hold it tax-free while it abates delinquent taxes, redevelop it, or demolish it if it has become a nuisance (read more about how land banks promote economic development). Guided by local residents and planning priorities, a Land Bank would put significant numbers of vacant homes back to productive use and turn around the decline seen in many hard-hit neighborhoods.


Nearly twenty individuals representing organizations as varied as the Chicago Association of Realtors to the South West Organizing Project testified in support of the ordinance at the hearing (see pictures below). Brian Bernardoni of the Chicago Association of Realtors expressed support for the land bank as “a critical tool for returning unwanted and abandoned properties back to productive use,” noting that their support was a “departure” from their overall position against enhancing local powers to address vacant buildings. Small developers and community development financial institutions, such as Calvin Holmes from the Chicago Community Loan Fund and Rafael Leon from Chicago Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation, noted that the Land Bank would have the authority to remove many barriers to financing and implementing redevelopment of vacant properties, such as the power to clear title and waive back taxes. Community representatives, such as Gloria Warner from Action Now and Dave McDowell of South West Organizing Project, emphasized the importance of including those most impacted by foreclosure—residents of hard hit communities—in the decision-making process for property disposition. Others, such as Julie Dworkin from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Diane Lemus from the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, stressed the need for the Land Bank to prioritize the preservation and revitalization of the region’s affordable housing stock.


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