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Fact checking the tax referendum

As the debate over the proposed 20 percent increase in Evanston’s real estate transfer tax unfolds, Evanston Now plans to fact-check claims of referendum supporters and opponents. Here’s an initial report.

CLAIM: At a Ninth Ward community meeting Thursday night, Housing Commissioner Jean Keleher, a referendum supporter, said Evanston’s transfer tax rate rate, would still be “fairly competitive with some other communities” if the referendum passes and it goes up to $6 per $1,000.

FACTS: The median transfer tax charged by area communities that have chosen to impose a tax based on the value of the property sold is $3.50 per $1,000.

Some charge more than Evanston’s current $5 rate. Chicago is at $7.50 and Oak Park is at $8. Other charge less. Skokie and Wilmette both charge $3. Schaumburg charges $1. A list of rates charged is here.

Other area communities charge no real estate transfer tax or charge a flat fee of $25 or $50. Lake Forest rebates a portion of its tax to current residents moving to another home in the community. Sycamore exempts current residents from its tax.

CLAIM: Ms. Keleher distributed a flier at the ward meeting which asserts that “many families” pay a real estate transfer tax “only once in a lifetime.”

FACTS: While “many” is hard to define, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 19 percent of Evanston residents move in a year. Thirteen percent of them moved within Cook County. The Census Bureau reports Evanston has about 17,000 owner-occupied homes, and multiple listing service data shows over 1,000 of them sold within the past year. For those who choose to move up within the Evanston housing market, or to downsize here, the real estate transfer tax hits more than once.

Heard other claims for or against the referendum you’d like to have checked out? Click here to let us know about them.

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