The Central Illinois Land Bank Authority (CILBA) is piloting a new housing strategy with the City of Decatur called the Abandonment to Rehab Program. The program aims to identify abandoned properties that can be saved, rehab the home to code standards, and sell to first time homebuyers. The goal of this program is to keep properties on the tax rolls that may likely become demolitions candidates in the next five years with no intervention, strengthen neighborhoods one block at a time with strategic rehabs, and provide homeownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income residents that want to purchase their first home. 

Due to population loss over the last 40 years, there is an estimated excess of 5,000 vacant homes in Decatur. Compared to the cost of new construction, which will easily exceed $200k or more per unit, creating homeownership opportunities via strategic rehabs makes a lot of economic sense. According to a recent Housing Market and Real Estate Feasibility Analysis from Teska Associates, 42% of the City’s renters face rent burden, far higher than the state average. Some of the same households paying high rent could have a lower monthly payment and actually own a home with this program. 

CILBA’s work the last three years was seeded by Illinois Housing Development Authority’s (IHDA) Land Bank Capacity Program grants, and the state also funded Teska’s housing study. 

Cordaryl Patrick, Decatur’s Director of Community and Economic Development, said, “We’re really excited about this partnership with the Central Illinois Land Bank and ready to get this project off the ground rehabbing abandoned homes. In order to break the cycle of disinvestment, new tools are needed and this is a great way to provide residents with an opportunity to build equity in neighborhoods of their choosing.” 

Beyond preserving the tax base and saving money on future demolitions, this provides a partnership opportunity with the Community Investment Corporation of Decatur and Justine Petersen on homeownership counseling.  Both organizations are well-positioned to help create a pipeline of first time homebuyers that are ready to purchase the homes CILBA will rehab under this program.   

Mike Davis, Executive Director of CILBA, said, “This is an initiative the state could expand upon in the future, for downstate communities losing population that do not need new housing units.  This program shows what is really needed to address our affordable housing needs is new sustainable revenue source to save distressed housing before they become demolition candidates.  Once a home is demolished, it will likely never be replaced with a new one in Decaturwhich further erodes the tax base.”

This Abandonment to Rehab Program presented the City of Decatur with an opportunity to move from a reactive approach on blight/disinvestment to a proactive one. This initiative can also provide opportunities for anchor employers like hospitals and higher education to provide additional support, such as down payment assistance, so their employees can live near where they work.   

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