Mar 20, 2024 - News

Bring Chicago Home referendum vote too close to call

Illustration of a pen filling in a ballot checkbox in the shape of a house.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The future of a tax hike on Chicago's high-end real estate sales is stuck in limbo as vote totals for the Bring Chicago Home referendum remain too close to call.

Why it matters: The ballot measure — one of Mayor Brandon Johnson's signature proposals — aims to raise more than $100 million a year for homeless services, but critics worry it will further hurt the commercial real estate industry, raise rents and push more property tax burden to homeowners.

By the numbers: As of midnight, the vote total stood at 54% opposing the measure, and 46% supporting it with 23,000 votes between them.

  • But more than 109,000 potential mail-in votes had not yet been returned and counted, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

What they're saying: "There are still 100,000 mail-in ballots to be counted, but whatever the count, one thing is abundantly clear tonight: how determined our opponents are to continue profiting from displacement and inequity," the Bring Chicago Home campaign said in a statement to WGN late Tuesday.

The other side: "We are grateful to everyone who spoke out against the constant real estate tax increases in our city," Farzin Parang, executive director of the Chicago Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), said in a statement.

  • He added that BOMA hopes to help "develop a detailed plan that provides genuine support to the homeless while bolstering our city competitiveness and protecting all the workers who depend on it."

Catch up quick: The measure proposes to more than double the transfer tax on the portion of property sales over $1 million and quadruple the tax on the portion over $1.5 million, while simultaneously lowering the tax on properties that sell for less than $1 million.

  • Meanwhile, some alders, and a recent Civic Federation report, have raised concerns about the measure's lack of specificity when it comes to exactly how the tax revenue would be spent.

What's next: The Chicago Board of Elections will continue to count any mail-in ballots it receives through April 2.

  • The only mail-in ballots that have been counted so far are those that arrived at least one day before the election.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the ballot measure would more than double (not almost double) the transfer tax on property sales over $1 million, and quadruple it (not triple it) on those over $1.5 million.

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