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‘Bring Chicago Home’ funds may not go to the homeless


(The Center Square) – Revenue from a proposed real estate tax increase in Chicago might not provide services to the homeless as promised.

A referendum on the ballot in Chicago would raise the real estate transfer tax on sellers of properties worth a million dollars or more, with the stated purpose of addressing homelessness.

Mailee Smith, senior director of Labor Policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, said the Bring Chicago Home measure is misleading.

“What Chicagoans think they’re voting for in this referendum is not what it really is. Nothing in this referendum guarantees that the money will actually go to help the homeless,” Smith said.

Smith added that Mayor Brandon Johnson and the city council could use the money as they please.

“There’s nothing that will hold the city accountable or hold Brandon Johnson accountable for how these funds are used,” Smith said.

The referendum comes as the Chicago Teachers Union requests housing assistance for its members. The CTU has campaigned aggressively in favor of the measure.

Illinois Policy filed a complaint with the Chicago Public Schools inspector general and the Chicago Public Schools ethics advisor regarding a Chicago Teachers Union-sponsored “day of political engagement,” saying it may be in violation of school district rules about improper electioneering.

In an email, the teachers union said it was partnering with pro-tax hike advocacy group Bring Chicago Home to take students out of class to attend a forum on the subject.

“This is an unethical use of taxpayer resources and inappropriate indoctrination of high school students. Our team is exploring legal challenges,” Smith said in a statement. “Mayor Brandon Johnson should denounce it in the strongest terms.”

The real-estate transfer tax referendum has remained on the ballot, although legal questions are still looming.

Smith was not surprised when a state appellate court overturned a lower court’s decision that the measure was invalid.

“One of the things that the (appellate) court hung its ruling on is that this belongs to the legislative process and that this isn’t their place to decide. We’ve seen courts in Illinois do that before on ballot initiatives that are pretty disingenuous,” Smith said.

The appellate court decision was appealed, sending the transfer-tax referendum to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The primary election where the measure is on the ballot is March 19. Early voting is underway.