CHICAGO — Owning a home is considered part of the American dream, but for tens of thousands of people in the Chicago area it has become a nightmare.
It’s not their home that’s the problem; it’s neighbors’ abandoned houses that sit vacant and decaying for years, lowering the surrounding property values in the process. Called “Zombie Houses,” they are often left empty while they’re stuck in a legal limbo.
WGN Investigates what’s being done to bring these properties back from the dead.
In addition to falling into disrepair, such homes can provide easy access for squatters, drug dealers and other criminals. It’s become a real issue in areas of the Roseland neighborhood, where Pastor Glines House of New Life Baptist Church says residents have had enough.
“At night, they hear all kinds of noise and fighting, cursing, and dialects coming left and right so they’re having a problem with that,” Pastor House said.
Driving through the 16th ward, Alderman Toni Foulkes said the problem of abandoned housing is personal.
“When you’re a little girl people tell you, ‘get out of the ghetto,’ and I made it out, went to college,” Ald. Foulkes said. “But, I was homesick, and I came home.”
While Zombie Houses are an issue in parts of Englewood and other areas of her ward, Foulkes said transformation is underway. Businesses, private companies and house flippers are taking advantage of the low prices and rebuilding, street by street.
One organization taking part in this transformation is the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN), which teaches carpentry and other trades to former convicts, who then use their skills to fix up the vacant homes they acquire.
“So, when you talk about stabilizing blocks like these, it’s important to both do that with those who’ve come directly from the community, but also be able to demonstrate to neighbors who came to us and said, ‘we got to do something about these properties,'” senior organizer Shamar Hempill said.
Others like the Cook County Land Bank are trying to address vacant housing in 13 communities by removing barriers like outstanding taxes and bills, making the property more desirable for developers. The land bank is working one house at a time, according to Executive Director Robert Rose, stabilizing blocks by getting families to move into rehabilitated homes.
“Once they are rehabilitated and the family moves in… That whole block is healthy. That whole neighborhood becomes healthier,” Rose said.
Yet for all the optimism, the reality remains vacant and “Zombie” homes remain an enormous problem.
2018-12-05T09:39:12+00:00 December 4th, 2018|Categories: News Articles, News articles on CCLBA|Comments Off on WGN INVESTIGATES: Abandoned ‘Zombie Houses’ kill property values, but neighbors are fighting
The Cook County Land Bank is selling the Washington Park National Bank Building in Woodlawn, 6300 S. Cottage Grove Ave., after conducting public listening meetings to see what the community wants from the space.
The Land Bank, a government entity that acquires and sells financially distressed properties, usually tax delinquents at scavenger sales, is seeking requests for proposals on the 35,000-square-foot site, and will choose a buyer based on their plans for development. According to the Land Bank, the public expressed a desire for retail shops, commercial offices, and medical facilities.
The buyer will not be responsible for $3.7 million in unpaid taxes but will be accountable to the proposal they submit and subject to a redevelopment agreement with the Land Bank.
Rob Rose, the Land Bank’s executive director, said the agency is “keenly aware” of concerns about gentrification in Woodlawn. He said the community’s “loud and clear” message was that they did not want a housing development on the site.
“They see this building as a destination,” Rose said, adding that the community wants greater pedestrianization of the intersection as well as connections with the nearby Coleman Branch of the Chicago Public Library, 731 E. 63rd St., and the terminus of the CTA Green Line’s Woodlawn Branch, which is due for a redesign.
The development bids will be considered by a committee, on which a representative for the Woodlawn community will sit. Rose said that, while the Land Bank will consider proposals to take down the building, “our preference is for preservation.” The building was constructed in 1924 and clad in Indiana limestone.
The Land Bank is an independent agency of the county government, with suburban mayors, real estate professionals and bankers on its board chaired by North Side County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. Rose said the Land Bank’s generation of its own revenue allows for flexibility in the communities it serves and nimbleness.
The initial submission date for proposals is Oct. 1; Oct. 31 is the deadline, and the decision will be announced on Dec. 13.
The Cook County Land Bank Authority (the Land Bank) has issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) that calls for the renovation of the 94-year-old Washington Park National Bank Building located on the corner of 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. The Land Bank has set a number of guidelines and proposals are being accepted from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31 with a decision being made by Dec. 13.
The once thriving 35,000-square-foot historical bank has been vacant for more than two decades and the Land Bank believes that once transformed, the building will become an anchor for further development of the Woodlawn neighborhood.
“Restoring the Bank Building will have an immediate impact on the area. The building will provide needed services to the area including, but not limited to, banking, community space, business incubation, café, medical offices, non-profit space, and local retail.
There is also a psychological lift for the neighborhood with having a long-term vacant building being used again,” said Rob Rose, executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority.
To help guide the future redevelopment of the 63rd Street corridor the Land Bank, in collaboration with the community and the Metropolitan Planning Council, has established 10 primary objectives and parameters for the project. A few of the established parameters include creating a mixed-use design for the building, including a signature marquee to serve as a the gateway to Woodlawn, establish a pedestrian-friendly environment, and requiring the inclusion of Woodlawn residents as suppliers, professional service providers, and construction trades, according to a press release from the Land Bank.
Since 2013, the Land Bank has been working to empower local developers, community groups, and potential homeowners by giving them tools to transform their own communities from within. The Land Bank acquires properties that have sat tax-delinquent and vacant for years in order to sell them at below-market rates to qualified community-based developers, who then rehab the homes.
“The Land Bank’s mission is to acquire abandoned, vacant and blighted properties and get them back to productive use. The Bank Building is the most visible blighted building in Woodlawn so it was identified as a project. Woodlawn is experiencing a rebirth and restoring this building aids those efforts,” said Rose.
The Land Bank worked hard to make sure that the Woodlawn community was involved in creating the RFP for the Washington Park National Bank Building and Rose said that the design must compliment and respect the neighborhood aesthetic.
“It’s not my place to say what is the best design; this is one of the reasons for the Request For Proposals, which was drafted with significant community input,” said Rose. “The design elements should address energy efficiency, high air quality, stormwater management, good lighting, and walkability.”
For more information about the RFP visit www.cookcountylandbank.org/resources/bid-documents
By TJ Armour, N’Digo | August 20th, 2018 (Click here for the original article)
Since its creation in 2013, the Cook County Land Bank Authorityhas worked hard to reverse the effects of the 2008 mortgage crisis by taking tax delinquent, vacant properties in south and west side neighborhoods and getting them back to a useful purpose. They’ve removed barriers that have existed for years in turning these properties around because they have the authority to quickly acquire them, eliminate all back taxes and fees associated with them and offer them to people in the community to purchase and rehab at below market to little cost.
A few of the CCLBA’s accomplishments thus far include: Rehab 500 homes that were once that vacant and tax delinquent, bringing down area home values and producing no tax revenue for local government services. These affordably priced homes are now in the hands of new homeowners or are in the process of being purchased. Generate nearly $33 million in new community wealth – i.e., home value for new homeowners. Be 100% self-funded with no taxpayer dollars used; generated $23 million in revenue through property sales and grants, which is being re-invested in acquiring new properties and to cover all operational expenses.
N’DIGO recently sat down with Executive Director Rob Rose to learn more about the organization and what else it has in store.
Q: Tell us a bit about your education and professional background?
I received my undergraduate degree in business from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. I received my MBA from The Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Pre-business school, I worked in the semiconductor and technology industry. Post-business school, my experience lies in real estate, banking, and community development.
Q: For those unfamiliar, what is the Cook County Land Bank Authority?
The Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) is a unit of Cook County government, funded primarily with revenues from property transactions. CCLBA is the largest land bank by geography in the country and is governed by a Board of Directors chaired by Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. The Board of Directors is appointed by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
Q: Please give a few examples of some of the projects to help transform communities that the CCLBA has been a part of?
One that immediately comes to mind is the Washington ParkBank Building located at 63rd and Cottage Grove. This building has been vacant for over 25 years. After acquiring the building, we engaged the Woodlawn community to determine future uses and incorporated those ideas into the Request for Proposal solicitation. We are currently working to identify a developer to rehab the Bank Building.
Q: In your opinion, what are some additional things our communities can do to keep the momentum going once people purchase the rehabbed properties?
Form or join the block club.
Get to know your neighbors.
Shop at local businesses.
Hold your elected officials accountable.
Q: How can those interested in being a part of the Cook County Land Bank Authority get involved?
Our website, www.cookcountylandbank.org, is a great place to start. The website has an interactive map to help people find and buy inventory. There islots of information on our programs, news stories and featured rehabs. People are also able to sign up to receive event notices and our newsletter. Of course, people are welcome to call us at 312-603-8015.
Q: What are three principles or ideals you try to abide by in your business dealings?
Integrity. Respect. Loyalty.
Q: Can you name a book that changed or really impacted your life?
Family Properties by Beryl Satter has really impacted my work. This book offers a poignant portrayal of how race transformed Chicago and other urban cities. The work of CCLBA is to fight against the effects of these race-driven policies in our communities.
Q: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
That I can be rather silly sometimes. Most people think I am very serious all the time.
Q: Best advice or words of wisdom aspiring business professionals?
Do what you love not just what you are good at.
Q: Favorite quote or affirmation?
“I can show you better than I can tell you” “Treat others the way you want to be treated” “I’d rather have it done right than to have it done fast”
Q: What’s next for Robert Rose and Cook County Land Bank Authority?
During my first three years, I worked to build a strong CCLBA team and execute a sound strategy for success. During the next three years, CCLBA is looking to ramp up activity to create more dynamic impact. We are expanding into acquiring larger, multifamily buildings as well more commercial and industrial properties. We are working on the policy front to expedite the acquisition of vacant property. We are continuing our work with the scavenger sale process.
For more information on the CCLBA, please visit www.cookcountylandbank.org
Continuing its quest to spruce up city and suburban neighborhoods, the Cook County Land Bank is putting 3,189 vacant lots up for sale. The lots will be made available at below-market rates to individuals, developers and organizations. The land bank is hoping those who buy the properties will redevelop them in ways that meet community needs, by creating amenities like public gardens, play lots and basketball courts.
Most of the vacant lots are in areas hit hard by the 2008 foreclosure crisis and are delinquent on taxes. Many of the 2,436 vacant lots in Chicago are on the South and West sides. The bulk of the properties are in East and West Englewood, according to land bank documents. The land bank also put 753 vacant lots in the suburbs up for sale, in communities such as Bellwood, Chicago Heights and Harvey, among others.
The lots were acquired as part of the 2017 biannual Cook County tax scavenger sale. Because the land bank aims to have community members transform these lots to address community needs, in acquiring the properties it has the authority to clear back taxes and other related fees to help eliminate barriers to buying the properties.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the land bank had the tax certificates for 7,638 vacant lots, 739 residential properties and 306 industrial and commercial properties. The land bank acquires the tax certificates for the properties first, and then after a redemption period when the owner has a chance to pay the overdue taxes, the land bank can transfer the deed to a buyer. Vacant lots are often transferred within six months, and owners of tax delinquent buildings have 2½ years to pay the overdue amount before they lose the deed, according to Rob Rose, executive director of the land bank.
“In these neighborhoods, without this sort of intervention there is no market force that allows for a reset of these properties,” Rose said. “We have properties that are vacant and the tax burden is increasing every year and new taxes owed every year. The thing that makes them unattractive in the first place is the taxes are higher than the value of the property. At one point there’s never a way for these to be turned around. We are resetting these properties and allowing these neighborhoods to receive investment.”
The program is similar to the city’s Large Lots Program, which slashes red tape and encourages community members to buy vacant, blighted properties for just $1 and redevelop them.
Potential buyers of lots in Chicago are required to provide a letter of support from the local alderman if they don’t live in the same ward as the property. Buyers of suburban properties must have the support of the municipality if the purchaser is not local.
The land bank also is offering commercial and industrial properties.
More than 3,000 vacant, tax-delinquent properties across Cook County go up for sale Tuesday at below-market rates, as part of a government program to get blighted homes back on the tax rolls.
It’s the latest move by the Cook County Land Bank Authority, which was formed in 2013 after the housing crash to deal with the tide of newly vacant and abandoned properties in Chicago and the suburbs. Officials there are hoping the addition of the 3,189 vacant lots to the land bank’s portfolio will further help break a cycle of speculation and lead to new development in neighborhoods damaged by the housing crisis.
Each year, the county holds an annual tax sale, in which private buyers can pay off a property’s back taxes in exchange for being able to collect payments from the original owner, with interest. County officials say the problem with that system is that the people who buy the debt often just collect the interest alone, while the blighted properties remain untouched.
“Their intention, from our standpoint, is the role of a speculator,” said Rob Rose, executive director of the land bank. “They’re not really trying to use this as a tool for acquiring properties or redeveloping neighborhoods.”
By contrast, the new move by the land bank aims to take the properties that have been in that cycle the longest — known as “scavenger” properties — and get them rehabbed and back on the tax rolls, Rose said. Buyers who purchase property from the land bank will have the back taxes and other fees forgiven in exchange for promising to redevelop the land within a year.
With 3,189 new vacant lots released today, the total number of properties available for purchase through the land bank is 8,500. Most of the land bank’s inventory is in neighborhoods hit hard by the housing crisis.
“We’re taking a step to be able to offer even more properties to the neighborhoods,” Rose said.
As of last year, the land bank says it had sold 400 homes to developers and has spurred 500 rehabs. Officials estimate that activity has brought $4.3 million back on to the tax rolls. Last year, the land bank also started selling directly to homeowners and began acquiring commercial property.