A stylishly rehabbed Chicago Lawn bungalow is the 200th formerly derelict home revitalized through the Cook County Land Bank, officials are announcing today, as the agency hits the benchmark a few months ahead of schedule.
“When we started, that goal of 200 homes seemed like a hairy, scary goal because nothing like this had been done in Chicago before,” said Rob Rose, executive director of the land bank, launched by the Cook County Board in 2013 to speed up the process of turning around the county’s huge inventory of foreclosed homes.
Shortly after Rose came on in February 2015, the land bank announced the 200-homes goal, to be completed by February 2018.
“We fulfilled a commitment, and that’s important when you’re using (public) funds,” said Bridget Gainer, the Cook County Commissioner who chairs the land bank. “But more important is that 80 percent of these homes are returned to homeownership, and 65 percent of our developers are black and Latino, from the communities, so the money is recirculating in the neighborhoods we’re working in.”
The land bank’s initial funding was $20 million passed along by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan from the state’s $1 billion share of a $25 billion national settlement with the five largest bank mortgage servicers. Gainer said the land bank became financially self-sufficient early in 2017, operating off its own revenue. The land bank will generate about $12 million in revenue this year and plow most of that into the next round of purchases of derelict properties, she said.
“We took no tax money in 2017,” Gainer said.
Work on the Chicago Lawn bungalow, at 6638 Artesian Ave., is about three weeks from completion, according to Bridgette Washington, whose firm Washington Realty & Investment is doing the project, her first-ever rehab job.
The house has all-new kitchen and bath fixtures, its formerly low-ceilinged attic bedrooms and the staircase up to them have been rebuilt at the full height required by building codes, and some main-floor walls have been removed to open up the floor plan to a more modern layout, Washington said.
The bungalow had been foreclosed in 2013 and deeded over to the land bank in 2014, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. With partner Ricky Albritton, Washington bought the property from the land bank for $16,000. She plans to list it at $225,000 when the work is finished next month.
The land bank “made everything easy and convenient from the time I said I wanted to do this,” Washington said. Key to making it work, Gainer said, is that once the land bank acquires a foreclosure, it uses the county’s authority to wipe out any clouds on the title. That process “would take a developer nine months to a year and run up the attorneys’ fees,” Gainer said, while “we can make it happen fast.”
The land bank also helps small-operator developers like Washington line up financing, contractors and other resources. “We’re building a community of developers,” Rose said.