In recent years, residents of Live Oak, a neighborhood in Chicago, have been hit hard by skyrocketing property taxes. People who have called Live Oak home for decades are now finding themselves priced out, struggling to afford their own homes. In this article, we will dive into the driving factors behind these increasing property taxes and explore the consequences they pose to the future of Live Oak.
The Sticker Shock and Its Impact on the Community
When Live Oak residents received their property tax bills at the end of last year, many were shocked by the staggering increase. Families in the neighborhood, such as Olga and Jorge Saldana, who have lived in their home for nearly 20 years, were expecting a reasonable increase in their bills. However, they were faced with a bill almost three times higher than what they had paid before, putting a strain on their monthly mortgage payments.
The financial impact is not limited to individual homeowners. Small businesses in Live Oak, like a Spanish-language bookstore that has served the community for 40 years, are also suffering. The owner, who imports books from Mexico and Spain, saw his property tax bill increase from $26,000 to $44,000. This substantial additional burden makes it challenging for small businesses to stay afloat and threatens the cultural fabric of the neighborhood.
Understanding the Reasons Behind the Skyrocketing Property Taxes
To comprehend the reasons behind the steep increase in property taxes, it is essential to analyze the bigger picture. According to the Cook County Treasurer, property taxes rose by $614 million for the 2021 tax year countywide, with homeowners being responsible for more than half of that increase. Cook County Assessor, Fritz KD, explains that one of the primary drivers of the increase is the revisions of the border between residential and commercial properties. Under the new assessments, homeowners are required to pay a larger share of the tax burden, whereas big commercial property owners successfully appealed their assessments, resulting in a collective tax burden shift.
Another factor impacting property values and taxes in Live Oak is the neighborhood’s popularity. It is now considered a hot neighborhood, with new constructions and remodels changing the landscape. However, this boom in the real estate market contributes to disparities in property values. Homes that have not undergone renovations end up being compared to ones that have been updated, leading to inconsistencies in assessments.
Addressing the Challenges and Looking Towards a Fairer System
Cook County Assessor, Fritz KD, acknowledges that mistakes can be made in the assessment process, and improvements are needed. He promises transparency and is working towards bringing the values of the biggest properties downtown back to where his office sent them, hoping for different decisions on appeal by the Board of Review. There is also a push to change the tax code to allow more homeowners to qualify for tax exemptions that could provide relief.
Former Alderman George Cardenas, who represents Live Oak, is also committed to finding solutions. He believes that improvements are necessary in the system, especially for homes that have not been renovated, as they should not be evaluated in the same way as updated properties.
The Future of Live Oak Hangs in the Balance
Without significant changes to the property tax system, Live Oak faces an uncertain future. The threat of high taxes looms over the community, putting businesses at risk of closure and forcing families to consider leaving their homes. The fabric of Live Oak, with its rich culture and sense of community, is in danger of being eroded by these exorbitant property taxes.
To prevent this, efforts to reform the tax code and ensure fairness for homeowners and small businesses need to be implemented. The goal is to create a community where families can thrive, businesses can flourish, and the unique cultural heritage of Live Oak can be preserved.
The rising property taxes in Live Oak have emerged as a significant and urgent issue for the neighborhood. It threatens the stability and future of a community that many hold dear. With homeowners and small businesses feeling the financial strain, action must be taken to address the disparities in assessment and shift the tax burden more equitably. By implementing fair reforms and ensuring transparency, Live Oak can preserve its character and create a sustainable future for its residents.