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What We Know About Chicago’s $838 Million Budget Gap

In this May 20, 2019 file photo, Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during her inauguration ceremony in Chicago. Housing advocates want Lightfoot to keep a campaign promise to use the real estate transfer tax to generate millions to end homelessness.

Jim Young

Chicago's Mayor Increases Homeless Funding; Critics Say It’s Not Enough

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is committing $10 million toward affordable housing and homelessness prevention. But some advocates say the move doesn’t stick to the mayor’s campaign promise to address homelessness in the city.

The $10 million will be split between two pots of money: $5 million toward the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund [LITF] for 520 new affordable housing units in gentrifying areas; and a $5 million increase in funding to the Flexible Housing Pool [FHP] to house more than 200 youth experiencing homelessness.

The FHP connects people in a crisis with housing and support services. The Department of Family and Support Services will work with those homeless youth.

“This is a down payment from an administration that very much intends to build from here,” said Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara.

However, the Bring Home Chicago coalition, which works to end homelessness, said Lightfoot is backing away from a campaign promise. She had previously proposed changes in the real estate transfer tax to raise money toward ending homelessness. More recently, the mayor is pushing for changes in Springfield to use the money instead as a revenue generator to help plug the estimated $800 million hole in the city’s budget. Lightfoot will deliver her budget address on Wednesday.

“We understand what the budget situation is and she understood that when she was running for mayor and should’ve been thinking about what was realistic, as well,” said Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “It’s great that they [the city] have good intentions and they want to commit more resources to this, but the real estate transfer tax is the best available resource to address this problem.”

In June, nearly two dozen Chicago aldermen signed a letter to Lightfoot indicating their support of the mayor’s intention to use additional revenue from a modified real estate transfer tax to address homelessness. The aldermen asked Lightfoot to commit at least $100 million of the additional revenue to that end.

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