• Erin Hegarty
    AUG 02, 2023

    Lead sponsor of Bring Chicago Home referendum proposal confident it will pass by January deadline

    Ald. Maria Hadden (49) speaks during a committee meeting last week. [City of Chicago livestream]

    The deadline for the City Council to approve a referendum question for the 2024 General Primary Election asking Chicagoans if they support the so-called Bring Chicago Home proposal is Jan. 2, and the lead sponsor of the proposal is confident the measure will pass by the end of the year. 

    Alderpersons largely voiced support last week for the Bring Chicago Home proposal that would increase the real estate transfer tax for the sale of properties over $1 million and put the revenue toward affordable housing and homeless services. 

    Related: Alderpersons voice support during housing committee hearing on Bring Chicago Home proposal 

    To raise the real estate transfer tax, the proposal would need to be put to voters via a referendum question, which advocates and sponsors are pushing to get on the March 19 primary ballot. The City Council would be required to approve the ballot question language by Jan. 2 to get it on the spring ballot. Alderpersons would need to approve the measure by a simple majority, or 26 votes. 

    The Jan. 2 deadline gives proponents of the proposal five months to get it through City Council, but Ald. Maria Hadden (49), the lead sponsor of the Bring Chicago Home proposal last term and the alderperson who called for last week’s hearing, is aiming to have the referendum measure approved by the regularly scheduled December City Council meeting. 

    While it has not yet been formally introduced this term, the referendum proposal “has a fair amount of support,” Hadden told The Daily Line. And some tweaks like shifting to a marginal increase to the real estate transfer tax instead of a flat increase could bring even more support. 

    The marginal rate would apply the new 1.9 percent real estate transfer tax increase only to the property sale amount over $1 million, and the current rate to the portion up to $1 million rather than applying the new increased rate to the entire sale amount. 

    Supporters of the proposal “want to make sure the reintroduction we’ve got is a strong version” of the proposal, and they are planning to introduce the measure during the Sept. 13 City Council meeting, Hadden said. 

    Proponents of the Bring Chicago Home proposal had planned to hold a hearing on the measure last November, but not enough alderpersons showed up to reach quorum even though more than 25 alderpersons had been at City Hall throughout the day. 

    Related: Lack of quorum grinds to a halt hearing on proposal to hike real estate transfer tax to fund homelessness services 

    Hadden on Tuesday said she anticipates some detractors for the new version of the proposal, but she expects less interference under Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration. 

    “I don’t know that we’ll see anything on the scale of obstruction we saw under the last administration,” Hadden said, adding she expects the pushback to be “more balanced and not as dramatic” as it was under the Lightfoot administration. 

    When it comes to the appeal of the marginal tax as opposed to the flat tax, Hadden compared it to the appeal of progressive tax rates.  

    “Flat tax rates tend to be regressive,” Hadden said, pointing particularly to how property values have soared since Bring Chicago Home began percolating years ago.  

    “A marginal tax would significantly lessen the impact on all the people in the middle — small businesses trying to buy the commercial property their store is in, to a retired couple that are empty nesters trying to downsize, Hadden said. 

    Still, members of the Bring Chicago Home coalition have reiterated their support for a flat tax, but some remain open to further discussions. 

    Related: Bring Chicago Home coalition still supporting flat tax as city suggests marginal rate 

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