Residents protest increased property taxes in Chicago’s Pilsen newstrendslive

Residents living in the city’s fast-gentrifying Latino communities saw some of the steepest increases in property taxes in the city, and protesters Friday took their displeasure to the streets, with a caravan beginning in Pilsen’s Dvorak Park and ending at the Cook County Building downtown.

Pat Gonzalez, who was born and raised in the neighborhood, said her property tax bill for a three-unit residential building she owns in Pilsen tripled this year. She said she’ll likely have to increase rent in her building, not for a profit, but just to foot the bill.

“The developers, the gentrifiers if you want to call them, they’re charging much higher rents,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve lost 11,000 people, Latino families, because they cannot afford to live here anymore, and now this is like a one-two punch, like they figured out a way to make people sell who can’t afford their taxes.”

Pilsen and the rest of the 25th Ward have seen a 46% jump in property taxes on average, according to protest organizers, an increase much steeper than in any other Chicago neighborhood.

Gonzalez participated in the protest Friday with her cousin, Jacqueline Negrete, who is also a longtime Pilsen community member and said not only is such a steep increase “ridiculous,” but the added interest adjusted by days instead of by month makes it a bigger issue.

“We expect to pay taxes,” Negrete said. “What’s that saying? What two things can you count on? Death and taxes. We want to have our parks, we want to have our streets cleaned, we want our garbage collected. We want these things, but not like this.”

People drive down 18th Street in Pilsen in a caravan from the neighborhood to the Cook County Building to protest property tax bills on Dec. 30, 2022.
Organizer Laura Paz gathers with Pilsen residents and activists from a coalition of Pilsen community organizations for a rally at the Cook County Building to protest property tax increases on Dec. 30, 2022.

In its annual analysis of all 1.8 million property tax bills, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office found that Latino communities saw some of the highest jumps, while many Black neighborhoods on the South and West sides saw bills drop dramatically. The north lakefront saw taxes rise at a faster clip than anywhere else in the city.

Friday’s crowd was made up of a few dozen Pilsen residents and supporters and community organizations. The group gathered at the park, 1119 W. Cullerton St., around 11 a.m. before nearly 20 cars covered in protest signs and flags drove through the neighborhood and paraded toward the county building, 118 N. Clark St., where they held a news conference.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th, spoke at the county building Friday afternoon, with remarks mostly in Spanish. His office organized the protest along with organizations including Pilsen Alliance, Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Metropolitan Tenants Organization, My Villita Neighbors, Mientras Haya Amor Hay Esperanza, People’s Response Network and Universidad Popular.

In an earlier statement, Sigcho-Lopez said, “We are encouraging homeowners to make a payment they can afford by (Dec.) 30th,” the payment deadline for property taxes. “We will fight over the next 14 months to avoid homeowners losing their homes in the scavenger sale thanks to an unfair strike of a pen. No option will be left off the table.”

The alderman is calling for changes in the state legislature to make it illegal to increase property taxes by over 25% overnight as well as a moratorium on fees and fines associated with late payments.

“Earlier this month, more than 500 small homeowners came together to discuss the skyrocketing property taxes in the Pilsen community,” Sigcho-Lopez said in the statement. “We still don’t have concrete solutions from our elected officials.”

Juan Manuel Girón owns Girón Books, a Spanish-language bookstore, in the community and said his property tax increase was “outrageous and unfair all of a sudden.”

“I don’t know what the next chapter is going to be,” he said. “Loans, credit lines. Honestly, it’s impossible.”

He said Pilsen is a “very beautiful place that happened organically, so sometimes it feels that we’re being punished for having created the fabric that is the community.”

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