Community, Life and Living, Local, Park Forest

Park Forest and South Suburban Land Bank Working to Address Abandoned Homes

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- To reduce the number of abandoned homes, this year, the Village of Park Forest added 31 houses to the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority (SSLBDA) inventory. The Land Bank has 33 Park Forest houses and one vacant parcel of land in its inventory. Of the approximately 30 communities associated with the SSLBDA, Park Forest has, by far, the greatest number of Land Bank houses available for purchase.

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Of the communities participating in the Land Bank, Park Forest has the greatest number of houses (shown in orange) available for sale. (Chart SSLBDA)

The goal is to have these abandoned and dilapidated homes restored, occupied, and returned to the village tax rolls.

To reduce the number of abandoned homes, this year, the Village of Park Forest added 31 houses to the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority (SSLBDA) inventory.Click To Tweet

Village of Park Forest Planner Andrew Brown is hopeful that, by the end of the year, over 50 properties will be back on the tax rolls through this process. “Theoretically, if these houses all had a $5,000 property tax bill, we could be talking about $250,000 in taxes on homes that were not generating any taxes previously. This could help alleviate property tax burdens on other property taxpayers in the community.”

The Process to Add a House to the Land Bank

logo with image of house and tree
South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority logo (SSLBDA image)

After the village identifies a vacant and dilapidated property, it performs due diligence. The goal here is to determine its potential as a legally declared abandoned home.

The state abandonment criteria have three components:

  • The property is two years in arrears in property taxes and/or water bills;
  • It is unoccupied by the person legally in possession of the property;
  • Or it impairs public health, safety, or welfare.

If the investigation reveals the property meets the criteria, the village works with the SSLBDA legal team to secure the deed.

A recent change in state law allows the court to issue the deed directly to the Land Bank. Before, the court issued the deed first to the village. The new process expedites the sales process. Once secured by the Land Bank, all delinquent property taxes are absolved.

photo of white house with dead tree and broken limbs
322 Meota Street is one of the properties added to the SSLBDA inventory this year. (Photo John Hudzik)

The Land Bank ensures the care of all immediate health and safety issues, such as broken windows. And that someone cuts the grass regularly. It then works with a local real estate agent to market the property with a scope of work attached. They ensure that the buyer agrees to address all outstanding structural issues.

yellow house covered in trees and bushes
The house at 255 Minocqua Street is a recent addition to the Land Bank inventory. The house has been vacant for many years and is barely visible behind the overgrowth of trees and bushes. (Photo John Hudzik)

The current list of Park Forest houses in the Land Bank inventory is at the end of this article.

Demand for Properties is High

Because the housing market in Park Forest, and the south suburbs in general, is much stronger than it has been for many years, interest in Land Bank properties is high. Rehabbed properties, some once abandoned homes, are selling at prices many times their purchase price.

At a March 2023 meeting with the Park Forest Planning and Zoning Commission, Joe van Dyk, the new Executive Director of the SSLBDA, noted that a Land Bank home on Marquette Street recently sold for $38,000.

After extensive remodeling, that same property at 223 Marquette Street is now for sale on Zillow for $229,900.

grey house with trees around it
The house at 223 Marquette Street has been extensively rehabbed and carries a Zillow list price of $229,900. It was purchased from the Land Bank for $38,000. (Photo John Hudzik)

According to Margaret Decker, SSLBDA Director of Real Estate, some recently acquired properties have received between four to ten offers. Most purchasers wish to rehab and then sell or rent the house. Still, they also receive offers from individuals interested in rehabbing and living in the house with their families.

SSLBDA Leadership Changes

portrait of man wearing suit with trees in the background
Joe van Dyk, Executive Director, South Suburban Land Bank, and Development Authority (Photo SSLBDA)

The SSLBDA has undergone significant staffing changes over the past few years. Van Dyk and Decker are working to make the organization as transparent as possible by standardizing systems and procedures to minimize the impact of future staff changes.

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Margaret Decker, Director of Real Estate, South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority (Photo SSLBDA)

Work is underway on a new website to include the property inventory with addresses, property details, and realtor contacts. This information was previously available on the website. However, due to staff changes over the past few years, no one maintained the site. So reconstruction took place. Decker hopes to have a new website inventory listing online by the end of August.

Decker stated that the SSLBDA issued a “Request for Quote” to real estate agencies in the south suburbs in June. The agencies selected will work with the Land Bank to market the properties in their inventory. Decker said they received about twenty responses to the RFQ. They are currently working to bring the first realtors on board.

The SSLBDA has a goal, according to Decker. “To be a partner with the residents of Park Forest to help address the vacancy issues. To help clean up neighborhoods, and make sure that neighborhoods are safe and vibrant.”

Park Forest Properties Currently in the SSLBDA Inventory

Note: Properties marked with * were added to the inventory in previous years. All other properties made the list in 2023.