Homeless advocates speak out in support of Bring Chicago Home referendum; attack ad critiques

Michelle Gallardo Image
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Bring Chicago Home referendum garners attention as election approaches
If successful, the Bring Chicago Home referendum would raise the existing real estate transfer tax in an effort to tackle the Chicago homeless issue.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's a hot-button issue for Chicago voters: There's new support for a real estate transfer tax in the city.

The Bring Chicago Home referendum would raise money to house people experiencing homelessness.

With early voting expected to resume Wednesday in the city of Chicago, political maneuvering for and against the so-called Bring Chicago Home referendum on the March ballot is intensifying.

Advocates for the homeless spoke out in support Tuesday morning around the corner from the Loop Supersite.

"Nobody should be sleeping on a concrete mattress," 6th Ward Alderman William Hall said. "Chicago is not broke. Chicago has been historically stingy. And the good news is on March 19, one vote can change the future."

If successful, the ballot question would raise the existing real estate transfer tax from its current flat rate of 0.75% to 2% for the sale of properties over $1 million and 3% for properties over $1.5 million.

The revenue would then be earmarked to provide a regular income stream to tackle the city's homeless problem. But will it? One political ad is posing that very question.

RELATED: Chicago City Council approves putting Bring Chicago Home referendum on March 2024 ballot

"It's very simple. It doesn't get into the arguments about how much the tax is going to cost, who it will help and who it will hurt. But the message is 'you don't want this mayor to pass it,'" ABC7 Chicago political analyst Laura Washington said.

Opponents insist that while the transfer tax increase targets the high-end residential and commercial market, in the end, everyone will pay higher taxes, when high-end real estate sales plummet.

They say that will lead to a revenue hole that will need to be filled.

"The overall net effect of the policy will be to have an increase in property taxes on all properties throughout the city. Property tax increases lead to rent increases, as well," Illinois Realtors CEO Jeff Baker said.

And while a lawsuit has been filed to try and remove the question from the ballot, that suit is still pending.

Ultimately, if voters do approve the real estate transfer tax on March 19, it will then be up to City Council to craft and vote on a plan for how to direct that money to the city's unhoused population.