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Property Taxes: 20 Year Study + History of Redlining & How to Stop It

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

This month, the South Side Builder’s invited Hal Dardick, the Cook County Director of Research, to present “20-Year Tax History & Maps of Inequity”. The presentation began with thorough studies of flaws in Illinois’ property tax system. Built of a five-person team assisted by students from Chicago Universities, this team excelled in research, investigations, GIS mapping and data aggregation, creation, and analysis. This study showed the high levels of debt, driven largely by unfunded pension liabilities, that can lead to soaring increases in property taxes.

Now made accessible online, the public can view a 20-year history of property taxes billed. This allows us to find answers regarding property taxes and what rate it has increased since 2000.

According to the study, the total taxes billed in Cook County have nearly doubled in the last 20 years, increasing by 99%. The total property taxes billed in 2000 were close to $7.85 billion whereas in 2020, the amount pushed $15.60 billion.

How do property tax increases compare to the cost of living?

  • While total property taxes have increased 99 percent in all Cook County over 20 years, the cost of living has risen just 36 percent during the same period.

  • While total property taxes have shot up 115 percent in the City of Chicago over 20 years, the cost of living has risen just 36 percent during the same period.

  • While total property taxes have increased 87 percent in Suburban Cook County over 20 years, the cost of living has risen just 36 percent during the same period.

Mr. Dardick continued the presentation with the topic of historic inequalities, redlining, and neighborhood decay.

Dardick stated “We began this study by mapping 27,358 properties offered at the 2022 Scavenger Sale. Something immediately became obvious. . . .The map of the mostly vacant, abandoned and boarded up properties offered at the Scavenger Sale looked almost identical to the 1940 federal “Security Map” of the Chicago area”.

The second portion of the presentation continued with Mr. Dardick explaining the use of the federal “Security Map” of 1940, the period during the Great Depression. After home foreclosures spiked during the Great Depression, the federal government revamped mortgage lending laws in an effort to prevent future economic crises.

As part of that effort, the now-defunct federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, or HOLC, drew up “security maps” between 1935 and 1940 of areas of mortgage lending in 239 cities across the United States. Areas deemed high lending risks were drawn in red, which the Federal Housing Administration at the time said was due to “undesirable racial or nationality groups”. Redlining continued on for years, until outlawed under the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Did it ever fully vanish? Quick answer; no.

  • Banks and other mortgage lenders approved far less loans in minority areas, often when would-be buyers were well qualified.

  • Mortgage appraisers low-balled appraisals in minority areas – leading to the denial of traditional loans and forcing buyers into subprime mortgages.

  • Subprime mortgages came with many of the same features as contract loans: high down payments and onerous interest rates that tended to lead to default.

  • Inequitable property tax assessments forced minorities to pay more than their fair share of property taxes, further depleting the value of their home investment.

The bottom line is the City of Chicago wants to make efforts to :

  • Eliminate the Scavenger Sale and replace it with a county trustee program that allows for vacant, abandoned and chronically tax delinquent properties to be transferred far faster to new owners.

  • Additionally, to lower the initial interest penalty on delinquent taxes to .75% a month from 1.5% a month to lessen the burden on minority communities.

  • And lastly to create a public inventory of all vacant, abandoned and chronically tax delinquent properties in Cook County, complete with the steps required to acquire and restore them.

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