In a city for the rich, a property tax bill that drives gentrification.

Gentrifying Logan Square. My photograph.

As a reform candidate, Cook County Tax Assessor, Fritz Kaegi promised to not only end Joe Berrios’ corruption, he also promised to modernize the office.

Take the senior tax exemption for elders.

The exemption reduces by 10% the assessed value of our homes. That number is then subject to a the current tax rate that reduces the tax bill by some hundreds of dollars.

Not a huge amount.

This year many of our property tax bills went up thousands of dollars. Because of the way the tax rate went down, many elderly homeowners ended up with a smaller exemption.

This is not the fault of Fritz Kaegi. It is the law and can only be changed in Springfield.

Chicago schools and public functions need funding and I have no problem with paying my share.

In fact, in a recent local election, Logan Square residents voted to raise our own tax bill in order to reopen a community mental health clinic shuttered by Mayor Emanuel.

Part of modernizing the Tax Assessor’s office was ending the practice affecting those over 65 having to renew their exemption paper work every single year.

Having to do this meant that The Cook County Assessor’s office estimated that out of 740,000 senior home owners  who were eligible, only 285,000 applied last year.

I’m guessing that some elder people aren’t aware of the exemption or have mistakenly assumed they’re covered already.

Now the exemption is as permanent as we are.

Still there is a problem that remains  for elders who have lived in their homes for decades, and for other working class families whose neighborhoods have gentrified.

In a house whose mortgaged is paid, a tax bill for a long-time resident can exceed what they once paid monthly on their mortgage. Yes. The market value of their home has gone up, but it is what the business calls an unrealized asset. You can’t spend it at the market for food or pay your gas bill with it.

Unless we move from a community we have helped create over decades.

This is also an investment that can be bought and sold.

Most of us are not in this for speculation or house flipping. Our investment has been more than just a mortgage payment. It has been creating friendships, neighborhood organizations, political action, electing responsive elected representatives and on and on.

Plus forcing long term residents out of their homes with property taxes they can’t afford drives gentrification, no less than mega-projects like Lincoln Yards. It contributes to creating a city only the rich can afford to live in.

There should be a cap on property taxes of those who have lived in a community for a decade or longer and on the homes of the elderly.

That is something the legislature must do.


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