IL Supreme Court denies appeal of counting votes for controversial Bring Chicago Home referendum

ByLiz Nagy and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
IL Supreme Court denies appeal to block Bring Chicago Home referendum
As the primary election nears, the Illinois Supreme Court denied an appeal that would block votes of the Bring Chicago Home referendum from being counted.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday denied an appeal that challenged a recent ruling that votes could be counted for a controversial ballot referendum to help combat homelessness in Chicago.

Last week, an appeals court ruled the votes for the Bring Chicago Home referendum could be counted. But on Monday, lawyers for the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court to accept an appeal and review the case.

On Wednesday, court documents show the Supreme Court allowed the consideration of the appeal to be expedited, but denied the appeal.

SEE ALSO | Votes will now be counted for 'Bring Chicago Home' referendum on real estate transfer tax: court

The Bring Chicago Home referendum would hike the real estate transfer tax on buildings over $1 million.

BOMA believes the Bring Chicago Home referendum, which it sued to block, may not provide the projected $100 million to address the homeless crisis, and will have a negative impact on Chicago's already struggling commercial real estate market.

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

If commercial real estate values go down, and with it, their property taxes, that burden could shift to condo and home owners and renters.

In a statement, BOMA Executive Director Farzin Parang said, "While we are disappointed by the case outcome, it was important to contest this misleading and manipulative referendum question. This backdoor property tax hike would hurt our downtown and local neighborhoods alike, impacting homeowners, renters, union workers, and business owners large and small. What is especially troubling is that Mayor Johnson's transfer tax hike would give the City a blank check with no accountability for improving our housing and migrant shelter crises. We continue our efforts to educate voters on the important of voting no on this referendum on March 19."

But Mayor Brandon Johnson said Chicago learned lessons from Los Angeles in crafting the referendum now before voters, and he defends the measure.

2024 PRIMARY ELECTION: Voter information in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin

"There's an ordinance that will follow, in the event that this particular referendum passes, that ordinance will ultimately establish that revenue stream, the outcomes, how we appropriate is those dollars," Johnson said.

Johnson cheered the ruling, saying voters have a chance to set the city on a new path by legally dedicating local funding for affordable housing and homeless support services.

Doug Schenkelberg, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement Wednesday, "We commend the Illinois Supreme Court justices for denying the real estate lobby's flimsy attempt to override the decision of the First District Appellate Court. Our coalition knew when we launched this campaign over six years ago that big-money corporate real estate would fight us at every turn, and we were right. From emailing tenants with the threat of a rent increase to using the courts to try to stop our votes from being counted, they have consistently demonstrated that they would rather profit from the housing crisis than pay their fair share to fix it. Fortunately, with this latest decision by the IL Supreme Court, voters now have the power to set Chicago on a new path: where big corporate landlords pay their fair share, where there is legally dedicated local funding for affordable housing and support services, and where 68,000 homeless Chicagoans have a place to call home."