Ballot Measures

In addition to elected offices, voters are also asked to weigh in on referendums, which can either be advisory or binding. Posed in the form of a question, the ballot measures can ask about a wide range of issues and tax measures.

Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax Referendum

The proposal known as “Bring Chicago Home” would give the Chicago City Council the power to hike the Real Estate Transfer Tax, which is assessed when residential and commercial properties are sold.

Update, Feb. 23, 2024: On Feb. 23, a Cook County judge ruled voters should not get to decide on the ballot question. Real estate and development groups had sued the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to knock the proposal off the ballot, arguing that it improperly asked voters to decide three issues, when state law limits ballot measures to only one question.

Update, March 6, 2024: On March 6, an Illinois appeals court overturned the Feb. 23 decision. Voters are once again set to decide on the ballot question during the March 19 primary, but the ruling could be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Update, March 13, 2024: The Illinois Supreme Court on March 13 upheld the unanimous March 6 ruling. Voters will get to decide on the ballot measure.

The last time Chicago voters passed a binding referendum that applied to the entire city was 1885, when they voted to create the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, according to city records.

The transfer tax on properties sold for more than $1 million would increase by 233%, but would only apply to the amount of the sale greater than $1 million, according to the proposal.

The transfer tax on properties sold for more than $1.5 million would rise by 400% with the increase only applying to the amount of the sale greater than $1.5 million, according to the proposal.

The transfer tax on properties sold for less than $1 million, estimated by city officials to include 94% of all transactions, would drop 20%.

If passed by voters and imposed by the Chicago City Council, the new graduated tax would generate approximately $100 million annually to be used to address the root causes of homelessness by building new permanent housing with wraparound services like substance abuse counseling in an effort to combat crime and poverty throughout Chicago.

The number of Chicagoans who do not have a permanent home grew 4% between 2020 and 2021 to 68,440 people, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, which helped craft the measure and is urging its passage.

Here’s the language you’ll see on your ballot:

Amending the Real Estate Transfer Tax

Shall the City of Chicago impose: 1) a real estate transfer tax decrease of 20% to establish a new transfer tax rate of $3 for every $500 of the transfer price, or fraction thereof, for that part of the transfer price under $1,000,000 to be paid by the buyer of the real estate transferred unless the buyer is exempt from the tax solely by operation of state law, in which case the tax is to be paid by the seller; AND (2) a real estate transfer tax increase of 166.67% to establish a new transfer tax rate of $10 for every $500 of the transfer price or fraction thereof, for that part of the transfer price between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000 (inclusive) to be paid by the buyer of the real estate transferred unless the buyer is exempt from the tax solely by operation of state law, in which case the tax is to be paid by the seller; AND (3) a real estate transfer tax increase of 300% to establish a new transfer tax rate of $15 for every $500 of the transfer price, or fraction thereof, for that part of the transfer price exceeding $1,500,000 to be paid by the buyer of the real estate transferred unless the buyer is exempt from the tax solely by operation of state law, in which case the tax is to be paid by the seller? The current rate of the real estate transfer tax is $3.75 per $500 of the entire transfer price, or fraction thereof, and the revenue is used for general corporate purposes. The revenue from the increase (the difference between revenue generated under the increased rate and the current rate) is to be used for the purpose of addressing homelessness, including providing permanent affordable housing and the services necessary to obtain and maintain permanent housing in the City of Chicago.

Yes or No

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