Ed Paesel

South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association Executive Director Ed Paesel

The South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority has been operational for just over a year now, and has made exciting progress.

The SSLBDA 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.

Since becoming operational in April 2013, the SSLBDA has secured more than $2 million in funding, including a $1.5 million award from the Illinois Attorney General’s National Foreclosure Settlement and $550,400 from the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s Abandoned Property Program. This funding will help Southland communities stabilize their neighborhoods, and will help provide much needed financial relief to municipalities still struggling with the burdens of vacant homes and shuttered businesses. These funds allow the South Suburban Land Bank to acquire, repair and even demolish blighted properties.

The communities and residents benefit by having newly renovated and occupied homes and commercial properties returned to the tax rolls, while providing quality local jobs in the process.

To help address the area’s blight and numerous abandoned and vacant homes and businesses, the SSLBDA has begun aggressively acquiring distressed properties throughout the Southland. The SSLBDA recently closed on its eighth property, and it owns several single family homes, condos, vacant lots and commercial properties.

The properties acquired by the Land Bank will generally be renovated and resold. The vacant lots will be cleaned and maintained while developers are identified. Some may even become gardens or offered to neighbors as a side lot. Future projects include both residential and commercial properties that are carefully coordinated with local plans.

The Land Bank is working with each of its member communities to identify problem properties and opportunity areas on which to focus their resources and efforts. For example, in Oak Forest they are acquiring vacant and underutilized properties near the new Metra station in an effort to assemble parcels for a larger transit-oriented development or redevelopment project.

Originally formed through an intergovernmental agreement between Blue Island, Oak Forest and Park Forest, the SSLBDA has recently added new members including Richton Park, Sauk Village, Midlothian, Hazel Crest, Phoenix, Summit and will soon include Dolton. The Land Bank is in discussions with several other potential member communities in both Cook and Will counties.

The South Suburban Land Bank works collaboratively with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative and the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, along with local housing counselors, Realtors, developers, banks, contractors, nonprofits and others in an effort to promote community and economic development in its member communities.

If you are interested in learning more about the South Suburban Land Bank, please visit its website at www.SSLBDA.org or contact Executive Director Russell Rydin at (708) 381-0871.

Ed Paesel is executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. The opinions are the writer's.

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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.