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Moline, Rock Island and East Moline are teaming up to reduce blight, create housing and development, as well as grow the region’s tax rolls through the new Illinois Quad Cities Land Bank (IQCLB). “We will be the ninth land bank in the State of Illinois,” said K.J. Whitley, community development manager for the City of Moline, who has captained the land bank’s formation. “We’re very excited about that.” On Tuesday, April 5, the Moline City Council became the last of the three municipalities to give final approval to the regional housing reclamation authority and the intergovernmental agreement creating it. Two more steps remain before the authority can begin collectively and aggressively addressing idle properties and attacking eyesore properties. A board of directors has to be appointed by participating cities and a land bank manager will be hired to run its day-to-day operations. According to the job description provided by Moline, the position will be responsible for overall management and operation, protection of land bank assets, ensuring compliance with board directives, preparing and handling legal and highly confidential information, and coordinating with partners in program planning, program scheduling and implementation efforts. Moline took the lead on the land bank’s formation because it has the most comprehensive and extensive housing and property reclamation program, Ms. Whitley said. “We have a great model in Moline right now. We’re just making it regional.” The city also is building on shared services like its lead-based paint reduction program. Why develop regionally? Ms. Whitley said helping other cities lifts up not only Moline but the entire region. The process to form the land bank began when Moline applied for and received the first of two grants from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) to explore the concept. The city commissioned a feasibility study and began approaching other governments to join the effort. For the past 13 months, Moline has been talking with the two participating cities as well as with Rock Island County, Coal Valley, Silvis and Milan. Those entities opted to wait until the authority is operating before making a decision about signing on, Ms. Whitely said, adding “We’re anxious for others to join us.” In addition to the IHDA grants, Moline has committed $250,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and has created a three-year operating budget to help the land bank during its startup, Ms. Whitely said. The bank balance and budget allows the authority to begin working on projects and still remain in the black while the IQCLB generates the dollars it needs to sustain itself. Participating local leaders stressed that the land bank is not a taxing authority and it will not be levying any new assessments on residents or property owners. Operating funds will come from grants obtained by cities and the land bank and from dollars raised by selling reclaimed properties. According to the feasibility study commissioned by Moline, the land bank will:
- Develop a common means to identify, acquire, hold and dispose of property.
- Acquire and stabilize properties.
- Develop the capacity for homeowners, local contractors, and small developers to rehab and build new homes.
- Create an opportunity for locally-driven economic development.
- Bring properties back into the tax base as responsible, taxpaying owners.