Chicago ‘Demolition Surcharge Ordinance’ up for vote this week

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A plan to slow gentrification in two of Chicago’s hottest neighborhoods is up for a City Council vote this week.

On Wednesday, council members will vote whether to extend the “Demolition Surcharge Ordinance,” which was approved last year. It impacts homeowners near the 606 Trail in Logan Square and portions of Pilsen.

The ordinance forces property owners or developers to pay a $15,000 fee to demolish a single family home, townhouse or two-flat. Those demolishing a multifamily structure must pay $5,000 per unit.

“I think it’s a really good policy that just recognizes, look, if there’s a really good, nice two to three flat building, let’s keep that building, let’s rehab it. That’s the best option for the environment and that’s the best option for neighborhood affordability,” said 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who represents a portion of Logan Square.

If the ordinance is extended, the city could be headed for a legal battle. A suit from a homeowner near the 606 Trail claims it’s unconstitutional to tax a portion of a neighborhood differently than the rest of the city.

Attorney Larry Byrne is representing the homeowner who intends to file a lawsuit for the second time, against the city.

“In these areas if you raise the property taxes 150%, that’s going to get passed on to the tenants. That’s what’s causing the gentrification… If you have someone who is a homeowner, who’s lived there when the neighborhood wasn’t great and is now looking to sell the home and make a good profit on their investment, you’re harming that person,” said Byrne.

Chicago Alderman Ray Lopez, who sits on the city’s Finance Committee, voted against the ordinance claiming it would hurt long-time homeowners who are eager to sell their properties.

Ramirez-Rosa said demolitions have declined 88% along the 606 and 25% in Pilsen since the ordinance was first enacted. However, there’s no data on how many affordable rental units have been saved during that time

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