Cook County's Land Bank is betting on Austin

By Michael Romain

When, earlier this month, the Cook County Land Bank Authority identified 13 Chicago neighborhoods and 13 surrounding suburbs in which to aggressively purchase vacant single-family and multifamily properties — Austin was on the list.

The selected areas all have a concentrated supply of what the Woodstock Institute — a Chicago-based research and financial advocacy organization — calls "zombie properties." Those are properties in which a foreclosure case "has been filed but not resolved for more than three years."

"Because neither the borrower nor the servicer has clear control of the property, neither has a strong incentive to assume responsibility for the property," the report notes. "Zombie properties, therefore, are likely to be poorly maintained or blighted, which threatens the stability of surrounding communities."

In its 2014 report, the Woodstock Institute reported nearly 6,000 zombie properties in Chicago. Most of those homes, the report notes, are "disproportionately concentrated in lower-income communities" and "are more likely to occur in racially homogenous communities." More than 250 of those properties, or about 12 out of every 1,000 mortgageable properties, were in Austin.

Read More