Our Chicago: Bring Chicago Home

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, February 18, 2024
Our Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Early voting for the March 19 primary began Thursday. Chicago voters will have to decide if the city should increase the real estate transfer tax to raise money to help address homelessness.

It is known as the Bring Chicago Home referendum. If approved, it would change what is currently a flat tax of .75% when property ownership changes hands.

Here's how it breaks down: For transactions under one million dollars, the rate would decrease to .60%. For sales between $1 million and $1.5 million the tax rate would increase to 2%.

For properties selling over $1.5 million, the rate would increase to 3%.

There are differing opinions on how this might impact the city's real estate market and possibly benefit people experiencing homelessness.

ABC7 spoke with two experts on the topic, one supporting the measure and one opposed.

For the Bring Chicago home referendum

Voters will decide the fate of the Bring Chicago Home referendum in the March 19 primary. Our Chicago breaks down the opposing and agreeing views.

Executive Director of Not Me We Dixon Romeo leads the community group based in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood.

When asked about current funding for affordable housing and homeless programs, Romeo said many different sources are being used.

"There's money that comes from the federal government, the city still has COVID money, that we've gotten as we're entering the fifth year of the pandemic," Romeo said.

Romeo added that Chicago does not have dedicated sources like New York and Los Angeles.

"What we're trying to do is make sure that there is [a dedicated source,] so that there can be supports for wraparound services and for permanent supportive housing," he said. "This will give the city a consistent bucket of money so we can really start chipping away at the homelessness problem."

Questions have been raised about the impact on renters and small businesses if the measure is approved.

"The reality is that landlords can control the rent," Romeo said. "The only people who can raise rent and the only people who can raise that are the landlords and property owners. What we're talking about is are these same landlords, property owners paying a fair share for affordable housing."

Supporters of the referendum said an overwhelming majority, 93 to 95% of properties in Chicago, would see a decrease in the real estate transfer tax, saying the measure would not hurt homeowners' pockets.

Against the Bring Chicago home referendum

Voters will decide the fate of the Bring Chicago Home referendum in the March 19 primary. Our Chicago breaks down the opposing and agreeing views.

Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Realtors Jeff Baker leads the trade association, along with a coalition of real estate and development groups, opposes the measure.

"We have a couple of different primary concerns," Baker explained. "One of the biggest being that we don't think that it's actually going to help. We think that it will actually harm the efforts to address the homelessness problem within the city," Baker said.

He added that there are currently federal, state and local funds available for homelessness programs.

"The city has a set of homelessness programs and unspent dollars towards those programs," he said. "What this proposal sets up is the possibility of diluting those efforts."

Another concern Baker mentioned is the overall effect that Bring Chicago Home could have on the real estate economy within Chicago.

"Continuing to saddle more taxes on that real estate economy is going to depress that economy and it's one of the city's biggest economic engines," he said. "It's going through enormous pressures right now and there is evidence that more real estate taxes, like transfer tax increases, will have a more damaging impact or effect on that real estate economy."