Bring Chicago Home takes step forward

Measure that would end homelessness for nearly 36,000 in first 10 years survives often-fatal duel over committee assignment

CCH leaders and staff at City Hall for Nov. 13 Rules Committee meeting

Bucking the odds and the customs of the Chicago City Council, a proposal to dramatically reduce homelessness across Chicago took a step forward Tuesday, despite an opposition bid to bury it.

The legislation was assigned Tuesday to the Rules Committee at the behest of its sponsors, settling a contest among Aldermen over which of the council’s oversight bodies would take stewardship of the matter.

Last week, in two separate meetings, both 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly and 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez challenged attempts to entrust the legislation to the Rules Committee in what was interpreted as moves to inhibit the measure from advancing to the full City Council.

“We are really happy with this outcome,” said Julie Dworkin, Policy Director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “We thank all the Alderman who have exhibited their firm support for Bring Chicago Home so far. They’ve already overcome several procedural barriers, and with that kind of conviction, and strong backing from the public, we believe we can get this measure on the ballot and give Chicago voters the opportunity to have a say in how their city combats homelessness. Time is tight now, but there is still a legal path forward to meet the December 10th deadline for the February ballot. In the end, there’s no valid reason for elected officials to deny their constituents a voice on this crucial issue.”

The Rules Committee will report its determination to the full City Council on Wednesday, a necessary procedure before it can conduct a hearing on the legislation. 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris, who presides over the Rules Committee, is one of the proposal’s sponsors.

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Supported by 33 Aldermen, the Bring Chicago Home proposal would lift nearly 36,000 people out of homelessness over the next decade through programs funded by an increase in the city’s one-time tax on the sale of properties worth more than $1 million – a threshold that would exempt more than 96 percent of yearly average residential real estate transactions in Chicago, according to the Bring Chicago Home Coalition. Under Illinois law, it must first be approved by Chicago voters as a ballot referendum, before the City Council can adopt it as policy.

More than three-fourths of likely voters believe the city needs to redouble efforts to combat homelessness – and two-thirds favor a one-time tax on properties sold for over $1 million to do it – according to a poll conducted for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH).

Under the proposal, Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) would increase by 1.2 percentage points on properties sold for more than $1 million – a threshold that would leave 95 percent of all property owners unscathed, based on the average volume of transactions recorded annually. The concept garnered support from 66 percent of respondents in an April 2018 poll of likely city voters, conducted for CCH by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research.

Aldermen who are supportive of Bring Chicago Home and were present at today’s meeting include: Aldermen Arena, Austin, Burnett, Cappleman, Curtis, Dowell, Garza, Harris, King, Maldonado, Mell, Mitchell, Mitts, David Moore, Moreno, Pawar, Reboyras, Rosa, Santiago, Sawyer, and Taliaferro.