• Michael McDevitt
    MAR 20, 2024

    Bring Chicago Home referendum appears to fail at the polls after surviving legal challenge

    Bring Chicago Home supporters gather outside the Illinois Appellate Court on March 1. [Michael McDevitt/The Daily Line]

    The future of a proposal to raise Chicago’s real estate transfer tax on property sales over $1 million, decrease it for sales under $1 million and use the new tax revenue to fund services and housing to reduce homelessness did not look promising Tuesday night as favorable votes for the ballot question known as Bring Chicago Home trailed opposition votes.

    With 97 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, 53.8 percent of voters had voted against the ballot question.

    But with thousands of mail-in ballots reportedly outstanding, according to the Chicago Board of Elections, supporters of the referendum tried to stay optimistic despite the unfavorable results.

    “The Bring Chicago Home campaign exists in the long lineage of past and present struggles for fair housing, civil rights, and economic justice,” the Bring Chicago Home campaign said in a statement Tuesday night. “While tonight’s election results are disappointing, we are nowhere near the end of our journey.” 

    “There are still 100,000 outstanding mail-in ballots to be counted, but whatever the final count, one thing is abundantly clear tonight: how determined our opponents are to continue profiting from displacement and inequality,” the campaign further stated. “From landlords sending intimidating emails to tenants to a legal challenge attempting to invalidate the results, the realtors, corporate landlords, and mega-developers fought us at every turn.” 

    The Bring Chicago Home referendum is a signature policy proposal for Mayor Brandon Johnson and his progressive allies.  

    It asked voters to give the city consent to do three things: approve a decrease in the real estate transfer tax to 0.6 percent for properties under $1 million, a rate increase to 2 percent for sales between $1 million and $1.5 million and a rate hike to 3 percent for property transfers above $1.5 million. The revenue raised will be used to fund services for the homeless, though opponents have been critical that the plan for use of the funds is not clear enough.

    The referendum is advisory, and a new tax structure would still require legislation to be passed by the City Council. A favorable referendum vote is required before the council is allowed to raise the transfer tax, which advocates have estimated could bring in about $100 million annually in new revenue to help alleviate homelessness. 

    The results of the referendum were reported Tuesday night, something that would not have happened had the question not survived a legal challenge from a coalition of opposition groups.

    "While the results for this race may not be final, the passion of both sides is clear: we all want to make Chicago a better place to live,” said Mike Glasser, president of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance, one of the groups that unsuccessfully sued to get the question removed from the ballot.  

    “As neighborhood housing providers, we are responsible for 70 [percent] of the city’s affordable housing, and we want to work with the City to find real solutions that benefit neighborhood housing and grow Chicago’s supply of naturally occurring affordable housing,” Glasser further stated.

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