The Chicago Way: Free taxpayer money for people with six-figure incomes to buy upscale houses

In the name of some unspecified public good, taxpayer money is being handed as a gift to selected people in Chicago with incomes up to $137,775 to buy houses.  This is a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel set up two years ago, which has already handed out a total of $1.6 million to 218 lucky households, under a program run by something called "The Chicago Infrastructure Trust."  They don't even have to be first-time home-buyers.

It sounds like something a bit like winning the lottery, except that you don't have to buy a ticket; you just have to be selected by the program as worthy of a gift from taxpayers.


Mayor Emanuel (via Wikipedia).

I have no clue what criteria could lead one to receive such a boon from the public fisc, but since this is Chicago, I have a few guesses.

Tim Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times, which now bills itself as "America's hardest-working newspaper," has the shocking story:

A housing-assistance program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel set up two years ago to help people with "low to moderate incomes" buy homes has frequently ended up financing pricey homes in expensive neighborhoods, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found. ...

The Sun-Times found that:

• The program's largest grant – $25,020 – went to a single man who owns a T-shirt company to help him buy a $500,000 bungalow one block from Wrigley Field.

• Another single businessman got a $16,490 grant to help him buy a $340,000 "garden" condo in Lincoln Park.

• A Chicago cop got $21,137 toward the cost of a new, $445,000 home on the Northwest Side.

• Another police officer got $13,353 toward a $340,000 home on the Northwest Side.  He got the grant one day after he sold a nearby home for $277,000.

• A $6,480 grant went to a couple who appear to work for one of the mortgage companies that approve loans and grants for many of the home-buyers in the mayor's housing-aid program.  They used the money to buy a $187,000 home on the Far South Side.

Not to be outdone, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the powerful figure who cooked up the expensive and disastrous soda tax that had to be repealed after causing buyers to patronize supermarkets outside the county line, has her own boondoggle to pass out cash to cronies encourage low- and moderate-income home-buyers.  

[S]uburban homeowners participated in a similar home-buyer assistance program created by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle[.]

One small danger sign: The Sun-Times discovered that:

According to mortgage records filed with the Cook County recorder of deeds office, some of the money from the city program also went toward buying homes in the suburbs.  Those records show seven homes in the suburbs were purchased with the help of city grants totaling $56,890.  The 2016 ordinance approved by Emanuel and the Chicago City Council limits the subsidies to homes within the Chicago city limits.

The explanations offered by officials for the little discrepancy reek of double-talk.  Read the whole thing.  And keep in mind that property taxes in Chicago are in the midst of what is being called a five-year "ramp-up" that has already increased property taxes by $1.1 billion, and promises much more, in order to fund city employee pensions, as well as other niggling taxes, such as:

... Emanuel's plan to raise the monthly tax tacked on to Chicago telephone bills by $1.10 – from $3.90 to $5 – and apply it to every one of the 1.53 million cell phones and 733,893 land lines in the city.

And:

... [an] amusement tax on major concerts like those at the United Center from 5 percent to 9 percent.

I am sure taxpayers take comfort in knowing that their money is going to help deserving six-figure income families buy half-million-dollar houses.

In the name of some unspecified public good, taxpayer money is being handed as a gift to selected people in Chicago with incomes up to $137,775 to buy houses.  This is a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel set up two years ago, which has already handed out a total of $1.6 million to 218 lucky households, under a program run by something called "The Chicago Infrastructure Trust."  They don't even have to be first-time home-buyers.

It sounds like something a bit like winning the lottery, except that you don't have to buy a ticket; you just have to be selected by the program as worthy of a gift from taxpayers.


Mayor Emanuel (via Wikipedia).

I have no clue what criteria could lead one to receive such a boon from the public fisc, but since this is Chicago, I have a few guesses.

Tim Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times, which now bills itself as "America's hardest-working newspaper," has the shocking story:

A housing-assistance program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel set up two years ago to help people with "low to moderate incomes" buy homes has frequently ended up financing pricey homes in expensive neighborhoods, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found. ...

The Sun-Times found that:

• The program's largest grant – $25,020 – went to a single man who owns a T-shirt company to help him buy a $500,000 bungalow one block from Wrigley Field.

• Another single businessman got a $16,490 grant to help him buy a $340,000 "garden" condo in Lincoln Park.

• A Chicago cop got $21,137 toward the cost of a new, $445,000 home on the Northwest Side.

• Another police officer got $13,353 toward a $340,000 home on the Northwest Side.  He got the grant one day after he sold a nearby home for $277,000.

• A $6,480 grant went to a couple who appear to work for one of the mortgage companies that approve loans and grants for many of the home-buyers in the mayor's housing-aid program.  They used the money to buy a $187,000 home on the Far South Side.

Not to be outdone, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the powerful figure who cooked up the expensive and disastrous soda tax that had to be repealed after causing buyers to patronize supermarkets outside the county line, has her own boondoggle to pass out cash to cronies encourage low- and moderate-income home-buyers.  

[S]uburban homeowners participated in a similar home-buyer assistance program created by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle[.]

One small danger sign: The Sun-Times discovered that:

According to mortgage records filed with the Cook County recorder of deeds office, some of the money from the city program also went toward buying homes in the suburbs.  Those records show seven homes in the suburbs were purchased with the help of city grants totaling $56,890.  The 2016 ordinance approved by Emanuel and the Chicago City Council limits the subsidies to homes within the Chicago city limits.

The explanations offered by officials for the little discrepancy reek of double-talk.  Read the whole thing.  And keep in mind that property taxes in Chicago are in the midst of what is being called a five-year "ramp-up" that has already increased property taxes by $1.1 billion, and promises much more, in order to fund city employee pensions, as well as other niggling taxes, such as:

... Emanuel's plan to raise the monthly tax tacked on to Chicago telephone bills by $1.10 – from $3.90 to $5 – and apply it to every one of the 1.53 million cell phones and 733,893 land lines in the city.

And:

... [an] amusement tax on major concerts like those at the United Center from 5 percent to 9 percent.

I am sure taxpayers take comfort in knowing that their money is going to help deserving six-figure income families buy half-million-dollar houses.