Chicago City Council members fail to show up to discuss real estate transfer tax benefiting homeless

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, November 14, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

Chicago City Council did not take up the issue of a proposed real estate tax transfer increase that would help people who are homeless.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago City Council did not take up the issue of a proposed real estate tax transfer increase Monday because not enough council members showed up to even discuss it. The money would help people who are homeless.

It was Chicago politics at their finest. Homeless advocates suffered a blow as a lack of quorum at a specially convened City Council meeting essentially killed a proposal that would have put a real estate transfer tax increase question on the February ballot.

Aldermen were given two opportunities to show up. First at 9 a.m., then at 11:30 a.m. The second time, they fell short by just one.

"The part that angers me most isn't necessarily the ones that didn't show up," 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez said. "It's the ones who were here in the building, literally in the hallways when we needed one more to come by. So when they tell you they care about the issues, when they tell you they are doing everything they can, they are lying to you. They can't even walk in for this."

Referendum items must be approved by City Council 79 days before the election so that ballots can be printed out in time.

SEE ALSO | City threatens to remove ice fishing tents donated to Chicago homeless

Advocates say their proposal would have raised up to $160 million a year to fund wraparound services for the city's homeless population, which numbered over 65,000 in 2020, including families who are doubling up or couch surfing, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

"It was a daunting experience," said April Harris, with Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. "Not just for me, but for the kids and for my husband who battles with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy."

The one-time transfer tax increase proposal would have applied to all real estate sales over $1 million dollars, whether residential or commercial, increasing the tax paid by the buyer from 0.75% of the property's value to 2.65%, making it the second highest in the nation.

But while some paint it as a luxury tax to be paid by big business and the rich, opponents like Sean Easton say it would deter people like himself, an investor who provides housing in the Austin neighborhood, where courtyard buildings can run over a couple million dollars.

"One of my first projects I actually gutted a building and we ended up putting a homeless shelter in there," Easton said. "So I'm very focused on how do we build communities from within. For me, I'm all for the spirit of the bill, which is helping to end homelessness, but you can't do it by slowing down the growth of small to medium sized neighborhood building owners."

While for now the effort to keep a real estate transfer tax off next year's ballot was successful, advocates vow to keep on fighting.