Cook County Land Bank Authority: A Gateway For Homeownership and Community Investment

Cook County Land Bank Authority: A Gateway For Homeownership and Community Investment

In 2010, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer noticed something out of the ordinary—calls were coming in more frequently about constituents challenged with losing their homes. Aware of the housing market collapse and predator loan practices by banks, long-time home owners were seeking assistance from their public officials.

“People were calling me, they’re getting letters from the bank. People were worried if they had to move out that day—a lot of uncertainty. To be honest, the banks didn’t really know what to do."

Can This 200-Year-Old Approach Help Modern Companies Find New Talent?

Can This 200-Year-Old Approach Help Modern Companies Find New Talent?

Five years ago, when Bridget Gainer, vice president of global public affairs for professional services firm Aon, looked out her window, she could see Harold Washington College, a community college that is part of the City Colleges of Chicago system. “But we never engaged there, never hired anyone, never really had much to do with the school,” she says. “We thought, ‘Let’s try to bridge that gap.'”

Will Women’s March spur Democratic turnout in mid-term elections?

Will Women’s March spur Democratic turnout in mid-term elections?

Said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who founded the “Cause the Effect” political action committee to get more women to run: “Women like to feel encouraged and supported to run. They don’t want to feel like they are out there on their own.”

VIDEO: City Prepares For Women’s March

VIDEO: City Prepares For Women’s March

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and her four sisters traveled to Washington, too; she’ll be addressing the crowds in Chicago on Saturday.

Last year’s marches helped usher in the #MeToo movement that saw powerful men lose their jobs over sexual harassment. The theme this year is a march to the polls, urging women to take part in the political process for the issues they place top of mind.

“If we want to have a say about those things, we need to step up and run for office,” Gainer says.

Commissioner Bridget Gainer honors Equality Illinois

Commissioner Bridget Gainer honors Equality Illinois

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer honored Equality Illinois at this month's Cook County Board Meeting on Jan. 9, 2018. Gainer invited Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson and staff member Elise Malary to receive an official resolution honoring Equality Illinois and recognizing its 2018 Gala, the Midwest's largest LGBTQ formal celebration.

Gainer also passed a resolution honoring the Chicago Women's March to the Polls and the TIME'S UP Movement.

'Moment of change' — activists prepare for second Women's March

'Moment of change' — activists prepare for second Women's March

But to Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, the marches have already spurred concrete change, including encouraging more women to run for political office.

In 2014, 19 women in Illinois ran for statewide or federal elected office; this year, 29 women are running for office at that same level, said Gainer, who founded the political organization Cause the Effect in 2014 to bring more women into civic activism and politics.

How The Cook County Land Bank Works To Streamline Chicago's Foreclosure Logjam

How The Cook County Land Bank Works To Streamline Chicago's Foreclosure Logjam

Gainer, who has backgrounds in finance and community organizing, started the Land Bank and immediately worked to streamline the legal process and clear properties. Once the Land Bank identifies a property for reactivation, it takes just under eight months to clear a property of all outstanding liens and bring it to market in a simple manner. 
 

Q&A: Bridget Gainer on the New Cook County Budget

Q&A: Bridget Gainer on the New Cook County Budget

Since I got to the board, I’ve tried to use this guiding principle: What does government have to do—because we’re the only ones, or the best ones, to do it? For the county, that’s running the jail, running the rest of the criminal justice system—the court system, the public defender, and all of that—the collection of taxes and assessment, and the public health system.

One of the things I’ve worked on since I came to the board, and have been joined by others since then, is ways to handle nonviolent offenders differently.

County land bank unveils 200th rehabbed house

County land bank unveils 200th rehabbed house

"We fulfilled a commitment, and that's important when you're using (public) funds," said Bridget Gainer, the Cook County Commissioner who chairs the land bank. "But more important is that 80 percent of these homes are returned to homeownership, and 65 percent of our developers are black and Latino, from the communities, so the money is recirculating in the neighborhoods we're working in."

Young feminists tackle obstacles to change at Chicago conference

Young feminists tackle obstacles to change at Chicago conference

Nearly 300 women gathered at “Cause the Effect,” the second annual young feminist conference, to talk about what stops change and how to beat those obstacles.

“We had a conversation around two years ago that it’s only the boys who get their voices heard or put in the paper,” Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, D-Chicago, said. “I told them that if they think this is the last time that will happen it’s not, but they can do something about it.”

‘Off The Sidelines’ urges women to be change they seek on gun violence

‘Off The Sidelines’ urges women to be change they seek on gun violence

“Silence is no longer an option when it comes to the violence in Chicago,” said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who founded Off The Sidelines Chicago in 2015, inspired by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s national movement encouraging women to bring their ideas to action.

“What better voices to help magnify than those of the women out in the streets working every day to make their communities safer?” Gainer said at the monthly issues-focused discussion that had drawn concerned women from as far away as Hinsdale and Alsip.

Reps push tax credits for apprentice programs

Reps push tax credits for apprentice programs

Gainer said 26 students are on the program now, with a second wave of 26 set to arrive in January. All work Monday through Thursday, but then attend Harold Washington College, where they're obtaining associate degrees in business-related fields, she said.

"At the end of the year, they have a degree and a place in the company, and hopefully it will be a permanent place."

Gainer said participants were recruited through Harold Washington and groups such as the Urban League. Of the 26, 20 are Latino or African-American, and half are women, she said, all making around $30,000 a year, plus full fringe benefits and free tuition.

Kapos: Duncan, Gainer Talk Jobs

Kapos: Duncan, Gainer Talk Jobs

Gainer is behind the Aon Apprenticeship Program that’s connecting City Colleges students to office jobs. She hopes other companies will follow suit.

It’s not about having a fancy degree, she said. “But really, the skills required may just need someone who can be trained and who’s smart and ready to work.”

VIDEO: Delinquent Taxpayers Face Ballooning Interest Payments in Cook County

VIDEO: Delinquent Taxpayers Face Ballooning Interest Payments in Cook County

The sale takes place all week. Properties in townships including Oak Park, Orland, Bremen and Barrington were sold Monday. Other townships, like Palatine, Rich and Hyde Park will be added on Tuesday. Delinquent taxes throughout rest of the city will be sold off Wednesday and Thursday.

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer says tax sale system goes back a generation, and should be scrapped.

Cook County to Sell Off Tax Delinquent Properties to Highest Bidders

Cook County to Sell Off Tax Delinquent Properties to Highest Bidders

The owners of tens of thousands of homes and properties in Cook County who’ve fallen behind on their taxes have only a couple more days to settle their debts – or they could wind up paying a lot more.

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, 10th District, is working to build awareness about a property tax sale coming up on Monday where delinquent taxes can be sold off to private buyers, who can then charge property owners exorbitant interest rates until their debt is paid off.

How Irish Immigrants Got By in 1950s Chicago

How Irish Immigrants Got By in 1950s Chicago

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us and with it reflections on immigration, like this Heidi Stevens piece about Bridget Gainer:

“The real story of St. Patrick’s Day is people were fleeing economic or religious persecution,” Gainer said. “Not long ago, it was ‘Irish need not apply,’ and there are a lot of parallels to what this country is going through right now.”

Gainer, who says her maternal grandmother left Ireland for the U.S., by herself, when she was 19, hopes Chicagoans (indeed, Americans) will spend part of Friday — and beyond — reflecting on the nation’s rich history of welcoming and benefiting from immigrants.

For St. Patrick's Day: Who's the modern version of Irish immigrants?

For St. Patrick's Day: Who's the modern version of Irish immigrants?

"If you just said, 'People left their country for economic opportunities, religious freedom and political security,' Ireland might not be the first place that comes to mind," Gainer said. "But if you back up 100 years, that's exactly why people left. They were starving to death."

It's worth remembering, Gainer said, amid the holiday revelry.

"You don't get to celebrate ancestors who came over during a famine and then ignore immigrants coming over for the same reasons," she said.

Hoping for 'adrenaline boost' in flagging neighborhoods, Cook County selling more than 4,000 vacant lots

Hoping for 'adrenaline boost' in flagging neighborhoods, Cook County selling more than 4,000 vacant lots

The land bank, which owns the properties' tax certificates, has removed the red tape for potential buyers by extinguishing back taxes, liens, unpaid city fines or utility bills.

"We're trying to give an adrenaline boost to development in these communities by eliminating barriers to getting access to the property," said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, chairman of the 3-year-old land bank.

"The thing we wanted to address ... is to say, 'Look, I can't make someone develop the property, but I can remove the barriers to that decision,'" Gainer said.

Land bank wants to sell more than 4,400 vacant lots

Land bank wants to sell more than 4,400 vacant lots

More than 4,400 vacant lots in Chicago and the suburbs are going up for sale in an effort to attract development to areas that need it.

With the new offering of vacant lots to be announced today, "we're trying to speed up the process of empty land being put back to use," said Bridget Gainer, a Cook County commissioner who chairs the four-year-old Cook County Land Bank.