The Illinois House has voted to allow tax breaks for those who take vacant land and use it for urban farming. The aim is to give an economic boost to the state’s low-income areas.
The idea comes from state Representative Sonya Harper, a Democrat from Chicago. She explained during the debate that the people she represents on the south and west sides of the city live in food deserts. That means they don’t have easy access to fresh food.
But what those neighborhoods do have is vacant land.
“Now what people are doing is they’re putting that land back to productive use, and actually reviving the local economy and bringing jobs to an area that is depressed and does not have them," she said.
Harper’s bill would allow city governments across the state to offer special incentives like tax abatements and lower utility rates. But there would be limits on the dollar amount of those incentives. Some Republicans say less tax money coming on those properties could result in higher taxes for everyone else.
The Chicago Democrat says the aim is to give people in low income communities a reason to grow their own food and create jobs.
“One of the biggest reasons why we use urban agriculture is to put our vacant land back to productive use, especially in communities that are food insecure or food deserts," she explained. "In those same communities we have tracts and tracts, and even acres, of vacant land that’s just sitting there.”
The bill now moves to the Illinois Senate.