Ed Paesel

South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association Executive Director Ed Paesel

As part of their ongoing commitment to improving the southern suburbs, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and several of its member communities recently created the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority to help facilitate the redevelopment of vacant, foreclosed and under-utilized commercial and residential properties in the Southland.

The South Suburban Land Bank was formed as a regional economic development tool for municipalities with limited resources and limited staffing, to legally hold, manage and facilitate the redevelopment of targeted properties.

The SSLBDA will act as a catalyst for community development through strategic partnerships with developers, community organizations, banks and local governments to improve the quality of life, stabilize the tax base, and enhance economic activities that promote sustainable, healthy and stable communities in a manner consistent with local plans and priorities.

The South Suburban Land Bank was formed through an intergovernmental agreement between Blue Island, Oak Forest and Park Forest, and was made possible with assistance from the SSMMA and its partners, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provided the initial funding for the organization. The land bank is able to work within all 42 member communities of the SSMMA, but is encouraging municipalities to formally join the land bank for additional benefits.

The land bank is now operational and has begun strategically targeting properties and development projects. One of the first priorities of the land bank will be to help address the thousands of vacant and abandoned homes throughout the Southland. These homes can become dangerous safety hazards and can harbor criminal activity. This depresses property values of the surrounding neighborhood, and discourages investment.

To stem the tide of blight and vacancy, the land bank will assist communities in renovating these homes and reoccupying them with owner occupants and responsible residents.

In addition to the challenges facing the Southland due to the housing crisis and massive residential vacancies, the struggling economy has been further hampered by a declining base of businesses and viable commercial properties. The loss of these businesses and the abandonment of many commercial properties have resulted in a loss of both jobs and tax revenues for the communities.

The land bank is committed to assisting businesses in finding and retaining viable locations in the southern suburbs to help retain and create new job opportunities, and to lessen the real estate tax burden on area homeowners.

The South Suburban Land Bank will build on the collaborative efforts of the SSMMA, the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative, and the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation. The land bank will also support other neighborhood revitalization efforts with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the National Community Stabilization Trust, the IKE Program and the newly formed Cook County Land Bank to strategically promote quality housing and economic development opportunities in the Southland.

For more information on the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority, please visit www.SSLBDA.org or contact Executive Director Russell Rydin at (708) 381-0871.

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Ed Paesel is the executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.

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Porter/LaPorte County Editor

Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.