Many Cook County residents received an unwelcome surprise this month when their new property tax bill arrived with a hefty hike.
The increase was especially noticeable for those living in largely Latino communities, according to an analysis by the Cook County Treasurer’s office.
Moises Moreno, executive director of the Pilsen Alliance, says the hike some Pilsen residents are seeing has left the community reeling.
“Folks that have come in and reached out to us directly are in shock, seeing property tax bills double. In one particular case we have, a longtime home homeowner got a bill of over $10,000,” Moreno said. “This is not something that they could afford and folks are running around looking for help, and we’ve heard folks saying this is not fair.”
Christian Diaz, housing director for Palenque LSNA in Logan Square, says his neighbors are also stunned by the rise.
“I think there’s a lot of anger, distress, uncertainty and a deep feeling that this is really unfair. If you look at the property tax increases averaging throughout the city, it’s 8% … We know these property tax increases are due to demolitions, to new construction and to speculation in the housing market, which for some reason increases the value of land when White people deem a neighborhood is desirable,” Diaz said.
Brighton Park on the Southwest Side saw more modest increases in their taxes, says Evelyn Tapia, director of housing and financial services at Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. She says the timing of the increase also has people worried.
“We have a few that have come in being frantic because the taxes have increased a little bit, therefore most likely the the rent is going to increase and right now we are a low-moderate income area,” Tapia said. “Knowing the holidays are coming up, it’s going to be a little bit hard just because they’re trying to get out of this situation, but it’s going to put more burden on them.”
Moreno says organizations like his are putting pressure on elected officials to help those who will struggle with the tax increase.
“We’ve been having ongoing conversations with our Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya who made the commitment to work with us in the community, not just at the county level at the state level, because it seems like the politicians are passing the hot potato around when we talk about high property taxes,” Moreno said. “We’re hoping folks down in Springfield and the governor can definitely, really hear the voices from the community. And given that we’re coming into municipal election cycle we want mayoral candidates also to make this one of their main issues, because this is definitely impacting our community.”
Diaz says he sees the tax hikes as indicative of larger patterns throughout the city.
“There’s a longstanding history of communities being targeted by speculators, bankers, investors who use the opportunity to flip property to flip land by displacing people of color. And so this is not a new story,” Diaz said. “This is something that’s happened to Lincoln Park, to Wicker Park. There’s a history of disinvestment followed by rapid gentrification, and so the difference between the Latino communities seeing these increases and the Black neighborhoods, where the property taxes have gone down, is that White people aren’t willing to move into these Black neighborhoods due to racism.”
Tapia says while Brighton Park is not showing signs of gentrification yet, her organization is working to help stabilize housing in the neighborhood in order to preserve affordability for Chicago’s Latinos.
“We are a little bit concerned about that happening just because it’s going to impact the Hispanic community more. I think we need more assistance with rental as the homeowners do get assistance when it comes down to their mortgage,” Tapia said. “I think everybody comes to Chicago. So it’s something that we need and it needs to be kept in our culture and in our Hispanic roots.”