“Bring Chicago Home” Real Estate Transfer Tax Referendum Rejected by Voters

NBC5 Chicago | March 22, 2024

“Bring Chicago Home,” the controversial real estate transfer tax referendum supported by Mayor Brandon Johnson, officially failed Friday night, according to the Associated Press.

The AP called the race at 6 p.m., explaining the proposal was rejected by a margin of 53.2% compared to 46.8%, with 100% of precincts reporting. While a number of vote-by-mail ballots processed on Friday were taken into account, the results were similar to preliminary numbers on Election Night.

As of Wednesday morning, results showed 54% of voters, or 166,285, voting “no” on the referendum, while 143,624, or 46%, voted “yes.” At that point, 98% precincts were reporting.

The measure, which sought to increase the city’s real estate transfer tax on all properties over $1 million and use the funding to address homelessness, was referred to by some as a “mansion tax.”

Rather than taxing property specifically, transfer taxes only apply when a property is sold, whether that be a residential or a commercial property.

As things stand, all real estate transfers in the city are taxed at a rate of $3.75 per $500 of assessed value.

The Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, which has been opposed to the referendum, issued a statement on its defeat.

“Now that Mayor Johnson’s real estate tax increase has been rejected by voters, we reissue our repeated calls for the City to convene all stakeholders to develop solutions that move Chicago forward,” said Farzin Parang, BOMA/Chicago executive director. “Not only do we need to address the critical challenge of homelessness, we also need to develop a plan to rebuild our downtown and bolster our neighborhoods. These challenges are closely interconnected, and we must work in concert to solve them.”

Supporters of the measure said it would have decreased the transfer tax rates for 94% of properties in the city, but opponents warned that it would have had a damaging impact on commercial real estate transfers, causing fewer businesses to relocate into the city.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, which supported the proposal, said the results of the election don’t end its fight.

“And so, while we are disappointed in the results, we continue to stay focused on what matters most: the building of a long-term movement for housing justice, with, for, and by the 68,000 Chicagoans experiencing homelessness in one of the richest cities in the world,” the group said in a statement. “We invite all who share this vision to join us for the next chapter. The fight for housing justice continues because housing is a human right.”

One other race in the Illinois Primary was still too close to call on Friday night.

In the Cook County State’s Attorney’s race, as of Thursday night, judge Eileen O’Neill Burke held a narrow lead of 8,152 votes over Clayton Harris III.