Illinois Realtors to spend $1M in campaign against transfer-tax hike 

Advocates and opponents of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s proposed transfer-tax hike on high-end deals are pulling out all of the stops as the March ballot approaches.

The Illinois Realtors association is launching a hefty campaign against the Bring Chicago Home ordinance, with plans to spend about $1 million in the coming weeks, Crain’s reported. 

The ordinance calls for raising transfer taxes — a one time fee upon purchasing a property — on sales exceeding $1 million, igniting a fiery referendum campaign between the bill’s supporters, who believe it will combat homelessness in Chicago, and a real estate community worried about its adverse effects.

“We’re going to tell Chicago voters that it will harm the city if you create another real estate tax in a city where we’re already overly burdened with real estate taxes,” Jeff Baker, CEO of Springfield-based Illinois Realtors, told the outlet.

Supporters of Bring Chicago Home have raised about $700,000. 

The campaign against Bring Chicago Home will employ digital ads, mail, media outreach and fieldwork over four to six weeks. The ordinance would disproportionately affect commercial real estate, which is already grappling with record-high office vacancies, high interest rates and subdued sales. 

If passed, it would create a savings for the majority of homebuyers, dropping from 0.75 to 0.6 percent for sales under $1 million. The transfer-tax rate would jump from 0.75 percent to 2 percent for sales between $1 million and $1.5 million, although the first $1 million would be taxed at 0.6 percent. The tax rate would rise to 3 percent for transactions greater than $1.5 million. 

Baker said the ordinance would affect not only affluent residential buyers but also small businesses due to increased commercial property costs. The planned $1 million donation by Illinois Realtors adds to the $242,000 it already spent opposing the plan last year, the outlet said.

The total raised by opponents of Johnson’s plan is obscure due to “dark-money” fundraising led by campaign veteran Greg Goldner, founder of Resolute Public Affairs. Goldner’s strategy allows contributors to shield their identities through legal loopholes. 

Advocates of the plan were recently dealt a blow, as they failed to secure an endorsement from the Chicago Federation of Labor. The federation, representing over 300 unions, fell just short of the two-thirds weighted vote needed to back the referendum.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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