What started as the Vermilion County Land Bank — a public organization designed to help revitalization efforts — has grown to become the Central Illinois Land Bank. With that growth comes the potential to create real change in area cities.

The Central Illinois Land Bank recently named Michael Davis as its director, and now represents more than a dozen communities in Vermilion, Champaign and Macon counties.

Land banks can use funding from a variety of sources to help fight blight and spark revitalization. For example, in Vermilion County, the land bank has purchased property available at the county’s delinquent tax auction with the goal of getting that parcel back on the tax rolls.

With such a wide representation within the land bank, there are sure to be conflicts about how and where the limited dollars available will be spent. But the value of using the potential funding power of such a large group offsets those concerns. Instead of clearing a lot or two at a time, an organization the size of the Central Illinois Land Bank will be able to take on significant projects that will make a noticeable difference within its cities.

Danville and Vermilion County stands to benefit greatly from such efforts. Dilapidated housing ranks among the biggest problems in many communities. These buildings not only create health and safety hazards, but they decrease the value of surrounding property, thereby hurting everyone in the community by creating a decrease in tax revenue.

That’s only part of a land bank’s value. They also prevent such substandard housing from being put up for rent by those interested only in squeezing a few dollars out of those who don’t have a lot to spend. Creating competition for those types of buildings will improve the community no matter who ends up owning them.

Land banks play only part of the effort needed for communities’ revitalization efforts. For real success, those efforts also need to have the support of other local government units and the public.

Creating the Central Illinois Land Bank gives local officials one more tool to help improve their communities.

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