What you need to know about ‘Bring Chicago Home’

What you need to know about ‘Bring Chicago Home’

Chicago’s March 19 primary election includes Mayor Brandon Johnson’s real estate transfer tax hike to raise $100 million, dubbed “Bring Chicago Home.” Will higher taxes without a plan help homeless Chicagoans or hurt their job prospects?

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s plan to raise the tax on purchasing million-dollar properties, known as “Bring Chicago Home,” is near the bottom of the March 19 primary ballot.

While it is being touted as a way to help the homeless, there is nothing in the ballot language or from Johnson to guarantee that’s how a projected $100 million a year will be used. There are indications the cash-strapped city could use the tax hike in other ways.

Here are the basics about the ballot question.

What does the plan do to Chicago’s real-estate transfer tax?

Chicago now charges 0.75% on the sale of all property. Johnson wants that changed to three rates. His plan:

  • Lowers the tax to 0.60% for properties worth less than $1 million, a 20% decrease.
  • Raises it to 2% for properties worth $1 million-$1.5 million, a 166% increase.
  • Raises it to 3% if worth more than $1.5 million, a 300% increase.

The rates would be applied marginally, meaning a property selling for, say, $2 million would be taxed at 0.60% on the first $1 million, 2% on the next $500,000 and 3% on the rest.

Who will see a higher transfer tax?

While proponents have called this a “mansion tax,” relatively few homes sell for $1 million or more in Chicago. Nine times as many commercial properties sell above that amount. More than 5,000 commercial properties would see a hiked transfer tax under “Bring Chicago Home,” including local businesses such as Mr. Beef and Pequod’s Pizza.

How would the city spend the money?

Advocates say $100 million in new money from the tax would go to homelessness efforts, but Johnson and the city have laid out no details as to how the money would help homeless Chicagoans. Nothing in the ballot language itself lays out a plan. If passed, it would allow the city to raise taxes without binding the city to use the funds generated in any explicit way that guarantees helping the homeless.

Plus, Chicago failed to spend 85% of the $52 million in federal pandemic relief funds it received for homeless efforts and already has the $200 million in its budget for homeless relief. Before taking another $100 million in taxes, shouldn’t the city examine how it can better use what it already has?

Without a commitment to Chicagoans on how the money raised by the real estate transfer tax will be used, Johnson and the city could use the tax funds as they see fit. In a city with money woes, a string of broken promises to taxpayers and the Chicago Teachers Union making massive demands such as housing funds for its members, that is concerning.

Didn’t a judge rule the question as unconstitutional?

Yes. The question was ruled invalid by Cook County Judge Kathleen Burke. But a Cook County Appellate Court overruled her, stating she did not have jurisdiction to rule on a legislative issue. Appellate justices said they were not ruling on the merits of the referendum and believed the question is best answered by voters.

Didn’t Los Angeles try this already?

Yes. And its “mansion tax” is roundly considered a failure. Not only has LA’s tax generated a fraction of the money projected, but it is harming commercial property and rental property owners. There is no reason to believe the tax scheme will work better in Chicago.

Where can I vote?

Click here to check your voter registration information.

Paid for by Vote No on Chicago Real Estate Tax

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