Cook County Land Bank aims to help towns beat blight (Chicago Sun-Times)

The Cook County Land Bank is nearly open for business, and if it works, assumptions about the power of local governments to combat urban blight might have to change.

The land bank is supposed to help Chicago and the suburbs take vacant or neglected property and make it productive or at least a community asset. It would acquire property, get rid of back taxes and liens and make it fit for a responsible buyer.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th) have pushed the land bank from idea toward inception. With an eye on successful land banks in other locales, they are working with a volunteer board that is preparing the operation for launch.

It’s a new public agency but real estate is its business. Can it be nimble and smart enough for a market that has humbled developers and left homeowners upside-down on their mortgages?

“This is going to be a dicey proposition,” Preckwinkle said. “It’s going to take a lot of work and effort and not a little luck to make it happen. We hope that it’s going to be self-sustaining in the third year or so.”


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