Quick Hit Matthew Blake Thursday June 28th, 2012, 10:52am

Advocacy Group Wants Infrastructure Trust Used For Vacant Properties

The Infrastructure Trust ordinance, a plan where private investors will fund public infrastructure, passed City Council over two months ago, but the city has not identified Trust projects, besides an initial plan to retrofit municipal buildings.

So the Chicago advocacy group Action Now, which previously opposed the Trust, unveiled their own detailed proposal yesterday, calling for the Trust and developers to turn vacant city properties into affordable rental homes.

“We must use any and every tool we have,” said Charles Brown, chair of the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee at Action Now, at a press conference Wednesday outside of Chicago City Council chambers. “Chicago must begin and rebuild.”

Brown even parroted a line from Emanuel that the city faces infrastructure challenges, and opportunities, not seen since the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.

Under the plan, a vacant property held by a bank would be transferred to a public-private partnership between the Infrastructure Trust and a private developer. The Trust and developer would then fund the property’s rehabilitation.

After the rehab is completed, the property would be rented at an affordable rate, defined as 15 percent of the neighborhood’s median income. After a 10-year period, the property would be put back on the open market and presumably sold by the original mortgager. Action Now policy director Dan Kleinman says the plan will earn a profit for both the developer and the bank that first owned the property.

The plan came as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted his five nominees to the Infrastructure Trust board of directors for city council approval.

Kleinman acknowledged that Action Now was “very skeptical” of the Trust, partly because its board operates outside the normal rules of city government. But the “foreclosure crisis is a massive thing and we feel it will take multiple great ideas to hit upon a common solution,” he added. Another idea for handling the foreclosure crisis is a Cook County Board proposal for a land bank to seize vacant properties.

Action Now has reached out to the mayor about its plan and scheuled an initial meeting yesterday to discuss it. The proposal has the support of a handful of alderman, including Alds. Ameya Pawar (47th) and Toni Foulkes (15th), who both attended the press conference.

Image: Action Now

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