Mayor Brandon Johnson on Tuesday signed an executive order creating Chicago’s first chief homelessness officer position.
The person in the role will be tasked with providing solutions “for stable, permanent and affordable housing” for the unhoused in the city, Johnson said in a statement.
“By establishing a Chief Homelessness Officer for the City of Chicago, we will have a critical point of contact to coordinate efforts and leverage the full force of government to provide shelter for all people,” Johnson said.
During the 2023 mayoral runoff, a picture went viral on social media of an apartment with a Brandon Johnson sign in the window, above a giant Paul Vallas sign planted on the lawn by the building owner. As usual, a picture was worth a thousand words: renters for Johnson vs. landlords for Vallas.
Now, as the Bring Chicago Home campaign ramps up, we’re in yet another round of the battle between the renter and landlord classes. Bring Chicago Home would reform Chicago’s real estate transfer tax by creating a tax cut for property sales below $1 million and a progressive increase — higher tax rates on more expensive properties — on sales of properties valued at over $1 million, with the new revenue paying for affordable housing and essential services to end homelessness. With the referendum headed to the City Council for a vote to put it on the ballot in March, the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance has now published a survey saying that a majority of landlords would raise rents in response to the effort.
So when the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance starts wringing its hands and saying, “What about the renters?” you’ll have to forgive my skepticism. The alliance represents 600 members who own more than 180,000 rental units, an average of 300 rental units per landlord. These are not mom-and-pop landlords who rent their garden units. These are powerful political interests who for generations have raised rents, donated to landlord-friendly politicians and ferociously lobbied against any effort to tax any portion of their profits. They are not credible messengers on what’s best for renters like me.
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Bring Chicago Home will not, in fact, result in rising rents for the overwhelming majority of Chicagoans. Because of the graduated tax structure, most property sales will actually experience a decrease in their transaction taxes, including 94% of all two- to four-unit, multifamily buildings. In fact, two-thirds of the projected revenue will come from properties worth more than $10 million — not mom-and-pop multifamily homes, but large buildings with hundreds of rental units. Sound familiar?
Bring Chicago Home is a carefully considered, soundly constructed policy that is good for the overwhelming majority of renters and homeowners in our city, but that’s not what matters to organizations like the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance and landlords. What matters to them is their ability to keep making a profit by raising rents, cutting costs, and pushing out poor and working-class people when we can no longer afford to live in their investment properties.
That’s why big landlords are attacking Bring Chicago Home, and it’s why we shouldn’t trust a single thing they say about it.
Anthony J. Perkins, a housing leader with One Northside and the Bring Chicago Home campaign, is a disabled senior citizen who currently lives in a Chicago Housing Authority senior housing building in Edgewater.
The Lyte Collective is a community rooted in their love of young people. Located in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood at 549 E. 76th Street, the Lyte Collective supports people impacted by poverty and homelessness.
Founded in 2016 by a group of social workers who wanted to create a more equitable system, the Lyte Collective works to end harmful practices such as lack of available low-cost housing, poor economic conditions, and insufficient mental health services that cause young people to experience homelessness. In 2021, an estimated 68,440 people experienced homelessness in Chicago with 11,885 being youth, according to a report by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Despite Black Chicagoans representing 29% of the city’s population, 53% of Chicago’s unhoused community are Black.
Organizers in black shirts with the yellow slogan “Bring Chicago Home” across the chest have long shown up in droves to City Council meetings, led by multiple mayors at this point, to advocate for their proposal.
If passed, the ordinance introduced Thursday would prompt a citywide referendum next March asking voters whether the city should increase the transfer tax when properties valued over $1 million are sold, and decrease for lesser valued properties. If voters gave it the go-ahead, the revenue would create a dedicated stream to fund homeless prevention services.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has counted 68,440 people experiencing homelessness in 2021, an increase of nearly 3,000 people from the previous year, according to the group’s most recent estimates. The research shows shifts in the way people experienced homelessness, noting 7,985 more people were staying on the street or in shelters as opposed to those temporarily staying with others, compared with 2020 data.
For about six months, Electa Bey lived with relatives as she saved up money for a new apartment and took the time to find one.
At the time, she didn’t consider herself unhoused. She had just lost her husband, and she was temporarily staying with relatives. She says that she now realizes she was among those doubling up in homes across Chicago.
“I didn’t know I was homeless,” Bey said. “I’m like, OK, I’m staying with family — doesn’t mean I’m homeless. But it did. I had to look at it and say, wait a minute, I have to go sooner or later.”
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said the plan raised questions and concerns, including whether new arrivals will be given the option to go to a traditional shelter, plans for connecting people to permanent housing and services and whether people will have restrictions on coming and going from the winterized tents.
“Solutions being proposed now to support new arrivals are only temporary,” the statement read. “These resources will run out, and Chicago will be in a worse position than when it started.”
What about the burgeoning homeless and affordable housing crisis? More than 200,000 families are on Chicago Housing Authority waiting lists, according to the CHA’s fiscal year 2023 report. The wait for public housing can take six months to 25 years. The Section 8 waitlist is currently closed. The CHA says the city has not received a major increase in vouchers over the last 30 years.
En su último reporte, la Coalición de Chicago para los Desamparados (CCH, por sus siglas en inglés) reveló que hay al menos 68,440 personas sin techo en Chicago, y de ellas el 82% son personas de color.
55,857 de las personas que viven sin techo en Chicago se identifican como negros, afroamericanos, asiáticos, isleños del Pacífico, indígenas americanos, nativos de Alaska, y multirraciales; 19,970 personas se identificaron como hispanos o latinos. Sólo 12.6% de las personas viviendo sin techo son blancos.
A new report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) estimates 68,440 Chicagoans experiencing homelessness at the beginning of 2022. This reflects a 2,829-person increase from the previous year—up 4.30 percent. This estimate is inclusive of more than 44,000 people experiencing an often-hidden form of homelessness: doubling up or temporarily staying with others. Homelessness is not one-size-fits-all and there are many ways one person can experience it. Someone may sleep in a shelter, on the street, at a train station, and double up with others all in one week. All these living situations should be considered homeless. In 2022, Chicago tallied 3,875 people experiencing street and shelter homelessness. The Point-in-Time count tallies people experiencing street and shelter homelessness on a designated night of the year—usually every January. The Department of Housing and Urban Development does not include people doubling up with friends and family who are considered homeless and therefore is not counting them in their annual estimates and does not include them in who is eligible for housing. CCH developed a method of estimating homelessness using American Community Survey data that includes those living doubled-up.