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On January 15, 2013, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance to create the Cook County Land Bank Authority today, making it the most populous county in the United States to establish the innovative planning tool.

The Land Bank Authority is being created as an agency of the County so it can help return vacant and abandoned properties to productive use. It will promote the re-use and redevelopment of vacant, foreclosed and tax delinquent parcels in Cook County and work collaboratively with targeted municipalities to decide which properties to acquire and how they should be restored.

“I’ve been to every corner of Cook County, and I’ve seen first-hand how municipalities struggle to return vacant properties to their tax rolls,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “This landmark ordinance will help the County combat the foreclosure crisis that has decimated communities. We are going to work hand-in-hand with communities throughout the County to ensure the Land Bank Authority is effective and sustainable.”

Click here for a map of foreclosed properties in Cook County

Click here for a map of vacant and abandoned buildings in the City of Chicago

Across the country, land banks have proven to be an effective tool to address the challenges surrounding vacancy, reverse the downward cycle of decline and decay, facilitate the transfer of property, and promote economic development and neighborhood stabilization. More than 80 local governments in 23 states have created land banks to turn vacant land from a liability into an asset.

“The land bank will provide another tool to strategically bring vacant buildings into productive use in cities and towns throughout Cook County,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who will appoint a representative to the Land Bank Authority’s board of directors.

Cuyahoga County, OH, Genesee County, MI and the Twin Cities in Minnesota are 3 examples of successful Land Bank programs. Click on the links below for more on each of these outstandidng programs.

A 13-member board will oversee the Land Bank Authority. It will be comprised of individuals from a variety of fields, including banking, real estate and development, to ensure the land bank can be nimble in responding to market demands. Critical to the success of the land bank will be its ability to hold property on a tax exempt basis to keep down costs and extinguish back taxes and clear title.

Click here for President Preckwinkle's answers to the most common questions on Land Banks

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