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Court rejects bid to block Chicago ballot measure that would tax real estate for homeless services

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago voters will get the chance this month to decide on a ballot measure that would levy a one-time tax hike on luxury properties to pay for services for homeless people, a panel of appeals court judges ruled Wednesday.

The decision by Illinois’ First District Appellate Court allowing the measure to be decided in the March 19 election overturned a Cook County judge’s Feb. 23 rejection of the measure in response to objections from real estate and business groups.

Early voting has already begun, so the measure remained on ballots amid the legal fight. The city’s Board of Elections said all votes cast for and against the measure will count.

If approved, the measure would raise the city’s real estate transfer tax on properties valued at more than $1 million and lower it on properties valued under that. Supporters of the so-called Bring Chicago Home measure estimate that it would generate $100 million annually for homeless services, including mental health care and job training.

Maxica Williams, board president of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, applauded the appellate judges’ decision.

“We look forward to keeping up our efforts to reach hundreds of thousands of voters about their opportunity to vote yes for a fair and sustainable plan to fund housing, care for the homeless, and ask wealthy real estate corporations to pay their fair share,” Williams said in a statement.

Mayor Brandon Johnson has championed the measure and told reporters at an unrelated news conference that “the people of Chicago should determine how we address the unhoused crisis in Chicago.”

“I made a commitment as not just a candidate, but as mayor of the city of Chicago, that I would do everything in my power to move us closer towards housing for all,” Johnson said.

Opponents, largely real estate groups, have argued that the measure unfairly targets commercial properties at a time when the city’s downtown is still trying to recover from the downturn caused by the pandemic.

Farzin Parang is the executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, one of the groups that is challenging the measure. He called Wednesday’s decision disappointing and said the groups “have already ramped up our efforts to educate the public” about the proposal.

“This massive tax increase would hurt homeowners, renters, union workers, and businesses throughout the neighborhoods,” Parang said in a statement. “Even worse, a yes vote on this referendum is a vote to deliver huge blank checks to the City with no plan for how millions will be accountably spent.”

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Associated Press reporter Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.

Kathleen Foody, The Associated Press



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