Fixer Upper County Edition

How Land Banks Can Help Save Illinois's Small Towns

While still in the midst of a global pandemic, it is hard to predict what will be the long-term impacts. Illinois communities, particularly smaller towns outside of Chicagoland, are likely to see an increase in abandoned properties. Local governments need tools to save their towns.

One such tool is a land bank. Land banks are public entities created in order to acquire vacant and abandoned properties unwanted by the private market due to overburdened tax liens. Land banks extinguish liens and rehab and sale when possible or in some cases demolish the property. Illinois attempted to pass state-enabling legislation in 2009 but was ultimately unsuccessful. Since then, a handful of land banks have popped up in Illinois, including the Cook County Land Bank Authority. A major concern, however, is the lack of a permanent financing structure. Land banks may be unable to meet their communities’ needs.

This Note recommends Illinois passes state-enabling legislation to give existing and future land banks the power to be more flexible, financially stable, and responsive to their communities’ needs.

a. J.D. Candidate 2022, University of Illinois College of Law; M.A. 2013, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; B.A. 2011, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Thank you to Professor Laurie Reynolds for your help and guidance. Thank you to Brent Denzin, Matt Kreis, and Mike Davis who were invaluable resources. Thank you to everyone who took the time to be interviewed for this Note. I appreciate you sharing your insight. Thank you to the members of the University of Illinois Law Review for your careful editing and helpful suggestions. Thank you to the town that raised me: Peru, Illinois. And a huge thank you to my family for your unwavering support and encouragement.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.