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An Argument for a Graduated Real Estate Transfer Tax in Chicago

As it exists today, Chicago's real estate transfer tax is a flat tax that charges the same percentage for modest homes and mansions.
November 19, 2018, 8am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Chicago spends less than 1% of its budget on affordable housing.
Derek Mindler

The Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago released "Our Equitable Future," a report proposing a graduated real estate transfer tax. Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn’t go for it, arguing that it puts an undue burden on homeowners to pay for affordable housing. But in an opinion piece for the Chicago Sun Times, Metropolitan Planning Council Vice President Marisa Novara and author Daniel Kay Hertz counter that a graduated transfer tax would actually lower the cost of the tax for most home sellers and buyers.

A graduated real estate transfer tax would place less of a burden on home buyers in more modest segments of the market, and have the additional benefit of providing new funds for much needed housing. “Chicago suffers from a shortfall of 120,000 affordable housing units. That alone is reason enough to consider a progressive real estate transfer tax, just as there is in San Francisco, Baltimore and New York City,” according to Hertz and Novara.

They contend that the city cannot continue to depend on federal and state money, which can vary dramatically from year to year, to fund housing. “In 2017, Chicago spent 36 times more of its own money on policing than on affordable housing, and three times more on legal settlements,” Hertz and Novara point out.

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Published on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 in Chicago Sun-Times
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