Targeted Approach to Returning Vacant Land To Productive Use

Fellows: Sophia Alice, Skyler Whorton, Evan Misshula
Mentor: Tom Plagge
Project Partner: Cook County Land Bank
[Project Blog Post] [Github Repo]

Boarded up buildings and overgrown lots have plagued Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods for decades.

Over the past five years, however, vacant and abandoned properties have spread beyond the inner city and into the suburbs, disrupting formerly stable working and middle class communities and prompting the creation of a county-wide land bank, a new tool for fighting blight.

The land bank has one job: to acquire vacant and abandoned properties throughout Cook County and return them to productive use.

To do that, it must make two key decisions:

  • Acquisition: the land bank can buy properties, receive them as donations from banks, or transfer them from other governments.
  • Disposition: once the land bank has acquired the property and cleared title or back taxes, it can choose to demolish it and hold the land, turn it into rental housing, or fix it up and sell it. Different strategies might make sense for different properties in different neighborhoods.

Our team partnered with the Cook County Land Bank Authority to create a web tool to view and understand Cook County’s property data, and to analyze it in order to help the CCLBA develop its policy strategies. Our goals were to:

  1. Build a usable web interface for both public use and for use by land bank employees that interfaces with a Postgres database in order to organize, query, and access the data in a convenient manner.
  2. Create a model that will determine the critera by which the Cook County Land Bank which neighborhoods to help first, which properties in that neighborhood, and their potential new uses.

You can read more about the outcomes of this project here.