The City of Chicago owns thousands of vacant lots. In the past few years, the city has searched for novel ways of encouraging development in parts of the city that suffered the most from the 2008 housing crisis. The latest attempt comes in the form of the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA). Currently, the CCLBA has made over 4,000 properties available for eager developers in 22 communities in the Chicago area.
The Cook County Land Bank Authority was founded three years ago. The organization works to clear up the red tape involved with buying and developing properties that have back taxes, liens, unpaid city fines, or utility bills. The CCBLA acquired the tax certificates of 7,778 tax-delinquent properties late last year and is now offering 4,437 of them to perspective real estate developers. While the CCBLA does not formerly own the properties, it is facilitating the transfer from the city to private owners. Interested applicants pay a $500 non-refundable deposit towards the property and the CCLBA paces a $1,000 forgivable mortgage on the property. If the purchaser is able to maintain the property according to municipal code, the mortgage will be released. The final cost of the properties will range from $3,000 to $5,000.
A similar program, the Large Lots Program, recently closed its application process. That program offered city-owned lots to eligible applicants for $1. The last open application period attracted 2,841 applications. The large lots program requires that the land be used for residential purposes only and be converted into side yards, gardens, or landscaped space. The land must also be held by the owners for at least five years.
Applicants to the CCLBA must live in the same ward as the property or provide a letter of support from the local alderman. In the case of suburban properties, if the buyer is not local, they must have the support of the municipality. Properties in the city of Chicago are mostly concentrated on the West and South Side, and have been specifically chosen for their proximity to CTA or Metra train lines, or public parks. Land is available in neighborhoods including Austin, Chatham, Englewood, Garfield Park, Hermosa, and Humboldt Park, to name a few. Suburban properties are available in Bellwood, Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills, Dixmoor, Matteson, Maywood, Melrose Park, Midlothian, Olympia Fields, Posen, Riverdale and South Holland.
The CCLBA is also expected to make another few hundred industrial and commercial sites available this spring.
A map of the available properties is available here.