Monday, May 18, 2015 || By Michael Romain
Last Wed., May 13, Rob Rose (pictured left), the new executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority, was in Maywood for an informational session hosted by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st). He fielded a range of questions about the organization from an audience that included the Mayors of Broadview and Maywood, village trustees, and real estate professionals, other county officials and residents. A representative sample of the questions the audience asked, and Rose’s answers, are provided below:
Do you work with private residents who want to redevelop their homes personally?
It’s possible, but most of these homes are in pretty bad shape and I don’t want to give it to the citizen who may be in over their heads trying to redevelop them, because then I’m just kicking the can down the road. If you have a rehabber that you’re working with and you’ve secured a finance rehab loan, then we can certainly work out something with you. We have sold houses to homeowners, but typically those homes require less rehab. But if there are major issues, such as electrical and plumbing work, that needs to be done we’d like homeowners to work in concert with a rehabber so we know that work is being done and so, once we sale it, we know it’s going to come back on line.
Does Cook County’s home rule authority in the area of housing supersede that of local municipalities who aren’t governed by home rule?
No sir. If it’s a tax delinquent process, then yes. The home rule authority with what we can do around tax delinquency would supersede it, because we have the jurisdiction at the county level. But from the municipal level, there’s nothing we can do that supersedes the municipality. So for example, even if there’s a property I want to purchase in Broadview, we still have to work with Broadview around code violations. With Maywood, we’ve entered into a memorandum of understanding around how they’d work with us on those kind of issues when we acquire properties (i.e., how code violations are handled, who does what and the chain of custody around these properties). That’s something we’re doing with every municiaplity interested in having a long-term relationship with us.
What impact do you have on private investors purchasing blocks of homes in a community … solely for the purpose of generating revenue and income down the road? So for example, private investors bought up 20 homes in Broadview. They’re not selling them. They’re trying to rent them out. Can you guys get involved with that? (This question was asked by Broadview Mayor Sherman Jones).
We don’t have any direct involvement. They’re private citizens. If they’ve bought the property and are paying the taxes, our jurisdiction ends. We move on properties with irresponsible owners under the law or with municipaliities working witih you around code violations. Part of what we can do, with the county’s gravitas, is sit down and have a heart to heart with those owners, with the village and with the county around what needs to happen. We can talk about the ways in which we may be able to buy those properties from them and put them to more productive use. They may not be realizing their investment and we could have a more productive use. So we can initiate a conversation about what we can do to help them with those problems. From a legal standpoint, though, there’s not much we can do to take them.
How exactly is the end use determined for the property the land bank acquires?
Part of what we’re trying to do as an agency is to make sure we have enough lending organizations, house counseling organizations and realtors that can band together to help with this effort. We have realtors on our board to help us in the sales process. We have lenders we’ve been talking to and working with who have down-payment assistance programs. Everyone’s trying to find where this next pool of home buyers will come from. In many cases, the villages and townships will have buyers who are interested and we’ll link those resources together. So, strictly speaking, that’s not something we’d be personally responsible for. But one of the conversations we’re having with the developers and villages is how to identify those resources to ensure our target areas are supported. And so we respect the uses that the village wants to see.
Right now, the banks are telling you they want to do more mortgages, but regulations, and their own kind of fear around the economy, is stopping them. So part of what we have to do is show them we have viable buyers with good credit scores who are working that want homes and we’ve got a good supply of rehabbed homes in these areas. That’s a big part of what we do. We create linkages in these areas.
What’s the relationship between Housing Helpers and Land Bank Authority at this point?
This relationship predated me, so I’m not sure what the role of Housing Helpers is. I’m not really sure where we are with Housing Helpers, to be honest. I know they identified those parcels, but I’m not sure of where we left off. That’s part of what I’ll need to do as I engage with the village. This is my first time in Maywood. This is the beginning of the relationship. I plan to be more engaged and more knowledgeable [in the future].
Many of these distressed properties, if not all of them, probably owe the Village of Maywood money for water. How do back water bills factor into your acquisition of homes?
In most cases, we are paying those past water bills. When we convey those properties over to developers, that’s part of the cost we pass on. There are costs we have, such as legal, holding, survey and title costs. All those third-party costs are passed on and water bills are one of those costs passed on. But the developer, in return for the property, doesn’t have to worry about buying a property from us and then also having an outstanding water bill or outstanding lien. That’s part of what they’ll be assured of. But we pay that water bill off as part of our acquisition.
Once you identify a property how long does it take to process before you can pass it on to the developer?
Once we have it in inventory, we’ve been able to close in as fast as five days. The slow down in the process is us going through the judicial process of actually getting the properties. But once Cook County is on title, it’s as fast as we can put the purchase sale agreement together.
Do you offer grants or subsidies to the end buyers of these properties?
Right now, we don’t have any grant money to offer for that, but that’s part of creating those linkages. Right now, the state has a pot of money for down payment assistance. The federal home loan bank, for its member banks, has money for down payment assistance. A number of community banks are also tapping into that program. They have down payment assistance for up to $5,000 down on these houses. So, there is some money out there available to assist the home buyer. There are energy rebates available with Energy Star. But we as a land bank don’t offer any money as part of a grant or assistance program. The biggest thing we do is sell these homes at low cost for $2,000 to $5,000 to developers. We’re trying to lower that cost so they can go in and do a quality rehab, but still keep the price of the house down. We’re subsidizing that front end cost to keep those overall costs down.
What is the process for identifying properties?
There’s two processes. One is by which we identify properties and purchase them to put on inventory. And there’s a process that comes up from the community to identify properties that we work on. Right now, I have acquisitions officers looking at what’s on MLS [Multiple Listings Service], talking to the banks about what’s in their REO [real estate-owned] property.
We get a list everyday from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae on properties that are coming through their foreclosure process that are available for purchase. We’re combing all of those sources in looking to buy homes in those areas. As we buy those homes, we put them on our website, which is updated everyday with inventory that we’re bringing on.
Part of what we want to do is better streamline that process. I’d like to be able to have one point of contact for Maywood. I’d like to call Angela [Smith, Maywood’s economic development coordinator] and ask her what have you identified and what should we be looking at so she can go and aggregate all the groups of people who have an interest in the properties.
We’re assuming that each of the municipalities have the resources available to talk with the citizens, figure out what people want and do that work. So when I talk to Angela, she can give me so many properties that have been identified and that you’d like us to start work on. You’ll have to tell me if that’s a correct assumption, though.
What’s the application process?
On our website, you click a button that says apply. The applications asks for contact information, the price you want to pay for the property and the proposed use of the property and that starts the conversation with us. VFP
For more information on the land bank, and to see how many homes in Maywood are listed in the bank’s online inventory, visit their website here.