Judge Throws Out Chicago Ballot Measure That Would Fund Services For Homeless People

CHICAGO (AP) — A Cook County judge has rejected a Chicago ballot measure that would have raised a one-time tax on luxury properties to fund services for homeless people after objections from real estate and business groups.

The ruling Friday by Judge Kathleen Burke came as early voting for Illinois’ March 19 primary has already started. The tax measure appears on the ballot.

The measure would have raised what’s called the real estate transfer tax on properties valued at over $1 million, but lower it on properties under that amount.

Supporters, including first-term Mayor Brandon Johnson, estimated it would have brought in about $100 million a year, which would be used to fund housing and other services including mental health care. Cities including Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico have adopted similar tax increases.

Maxica Williams, board president of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the ruling.

“We are outraged by the fact that this small minority of wealthy real estate interests would rather spend thousands of dollars on legal fees to preserve a brutally unjust status quo than pay their fair share in taxes," Williams said.

Roughly 68,000 people experience homelessness in Chicago.

Business groups, including the Building Owners and Managers Association International, argued the tax would disproportionately hit commercial real estate as Chicago’s downtown is still struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorneys for Bring Home Chicago, who championed the ballot measure, have said they would appeal any decision thwarting their efforts to get the question on the ballot.