The Chicago Heist

Cook County has experienced some of the worst effects of the housing crisis of any area in the US. As it stands today, there are 199,778 homes (9.16% of all) that are vacant in Chicago.

As a resident of Cook County for a good portion of my life, I have seen the steady rise of foreclosures and abandoned homes up close over the last few years. In response to the largest inventory of foreclosed properties in nation, Cook County commissioner Bridget Gainer has proposed an item called the “Chicago Land Bank.” This plan will allow an appointed panel to: claim eminent domain on abandoned homes and supercede bank foreclosures as banks have “no accountability to our local communities planning needs or wants,” per Commissioner Gainer’s report.

The plan goes further — after seizure the county may transfer and acquire any property with an underwater mortgage through power of eminent domain.  The idea of taking homes and voiding contractual obligations seems very compassionate and helping the communtiy to some. 

Now, the funding the seizure and redevelopment will be supplied through Illinois’ Tax Increment Finance project (or TIF). And they are only to be used to restore industrial development. In Cook County, districts that gain revenue from property taxes must give that money to the nearly 900 million-dollar reserves in the TIF funds. These revenue could be used to pay down our debt. However, with this newly created land bank, the excess revenue will be handed to unions responsible for building the project housings (or affordable housing) or to provide the new land bank with ability to rewrite mortgages.

In looking at Commissioner Bridget Gainer’s land seizure program, a few facts become clear. The Cook County Board has over stepped its bounds by seizing property through eminent domain and storing homes in a land bank that will be funded by property revenue after mortgage rewrites (that the board itself will be writing). The claim made banks don’t care for reinvenstment in the community rings hollow when this program’s end result is taking money out of the community and lending institutions to pay unions for building additional projects that will be mismanaged, provide no value to the community and run up our defecit even more.

As a resident of Illinois, I hope you all can see what the net result of years of progressive policies and eminent domain abuse will lead to. The solution for economic hardship needs to be explored through the free market and personal responsibiility. Thousands more will be put in unsustainable housing projects and our housing industry will distorted further under the rationale of needing more tax money for government created problems.

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