South Side developer thriving despite COVID-19, thanks to pipeline offered by Cook County Land Bank Authority
The mortgage crisis of 2008 put real estate developer Keith Lindsey, founder and CEO of Solar Energy Construction, out of business for four years. But this time around, Lindsey’s business is thriving, in spite of the COVID-19 crisis.
A general contractor for more than 20 years, Lindsey recently sold two single-family homes in Englewood since the pandemic hit Chicago, and he is now rehabbing a six-unit Englewood building that will be discounted housing for veterans in honor of his father, a veteran who died last year. He credits his success to being smarter with money, plus the Cook County Land Bank Authority’s vast pool of low-priced abandoned properties, tailor-made for small local developers.
“You learn from your mistakes,” said Lindsey, who has been back in business for five years. “You learn what not to do. You’re just smarter with money. And having a pipeline with the Land Bank makes it easy to keep going.”
Lindsey is one of several small developers who is putting bids on the 250 abandoned, vacant properties that the Cook County Land Bank Authority recently released for sale on its website: http://www.cookcountylandbank. org/. In spite of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Land Bank is receiving more applications for its abandoned properties now – about 30 each day –than this time last year. Last year, the Land Bank averaged 300 applications a month from developers vying for its properties.
“Understandably, there’s a fair amount of trepidation among some small developers because of tighter lending criteria from banks, making it harder for small developers to get new loans to acquire property,” said Rob Rose, executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority. “But many of our developer clients are optimistic that transactions can move forward. The pandemic is not slowing down rehabs or new applications for our properties. For those small real estate developers who are well-capitalized, this economy presents a great opportunity to acquire property and revitalize communities.”
“I believe if you buy something very cheap and you put your good love in it and make it affordable, I think it will sale, I don’t care where it is,” Lindsey said. “Right now, with the interest rates being low, it’s cheaper to own than rent. So you should give people what they want to buy.”
The Cook County Land Bank Authority, an independent agency of Cook County, acquires properties that have sat tax‐delinquent, abandoned or vacant for years and sells them at below‐market rates to qualified community‐based developers who rehab the properties.
Since its inception in 2013, the Land Bank has worked with more than 400 small developers to rehab more than 600 single family homes and generate $77 million dollars in community wealth.
“The Land Bank offers a very fair program for small developers,” Lindsey said. “They make you crawl before you walk. They come and make sure your rehab work is up to par. It’s a very nice opportunity that came to Chicago, and for me, personally, the Land Bank changed my life.”