The Vacant Homes Tax



The Vacant Homes Tax

It’s time to end the comfy relationship between wealthy developers and aldermen, and build a relationship between city council and Chicago’s working class.

The market is saturated with luxury units that are built for profit, not for Chicagoans. As long as there are working people struggling to pay rent and homeless Chicagoans, every empty unit of high-rent housing is a policy failure. We are telling wealthy developers: if you are going to profit from our homes, then you are going to start paying your fair share of our schools and city services.

The Vacant Homes Tax is a 1% tax on a property's assessed value for all units deemed vacant. A vacancy is considered a unit or property that is uninhabited for 6 months (or more) for apartments and at least 1 year for homes. At the end of each year, landlords and property owners will be required to make a status declaration to determine if their property is eligible for the tax. Revenue generated by this tax would be dedicated to the building of affordable and public housing. 

Exemptions are made for:

  • Properties under construction
  • Properties bought or sold during the calendar year
  • Units that are rented at a value of $600 or less per bedroom

Property taxes are a regressive tax, meaning they take a greater percentage of the income of small landowners and their renters than they do from the wealthy. This vacancy tax is one step toward a progressive taxation system, which is a move toward a democratic socialist program of housing for all. This tax is also not new. In Vancouver, Canada, this policy has seen incredible successes in generating revenue for its expansion of affordable housing. This same policy is also being considered in San Francisco.

It’s time to stop burdening our renters and small landlords with exorbitant property taxes, while millionaire developers build luxury units and sit on capital that we need for schools and city services.

If the wealthy are going to enrich themselves using our homes and our land, then we are going to enrich the city with this tax.