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Activists, Aldermen Want Property Tax Rebate For Renters

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some aldermen and activists on Monday called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to include rental properties in plans for a property tax rebate that would offer some relief from the massive tax hike approved last year.

The Emanuel administration has proposed a $21 million property tax rebate program, to offer up to $200 to homeowners being socked with higher bills starting this year.

The plan falls well short of the mayor's initial push for to double the homeowner's exemption, an idea which stalled in Springfield amid the state budget standoff, but would offer at least some sense of relief to homeowners. Emanuel's office has estimated about 35 percent of Chicago homeowners would qualify for the program, with an average rebate of $150.

Renters are not included in the planned rebate program, however, because a "rental rebate will be difficult and costly to administer and enforce," according to a memo provided by the mayor's office.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) disagrees, and has proposed a plan to include renters in the rebate plan. His plan would offer the rebate to landlords in exchange for a promise not to increase rents.

For tenants who do see higher rents, the alderman said "the check goes directly to the renter once they experience that increase to their rent."

Manolita Huber, of the group Communities United, said the property tax bill for the apartment building she owns has gone up by $700, and she has no choice but to pass the cost on to her tenants in the form of higher rent so she can pay her mortgage on the building.

"This is not something that we want to do. We care about the community, and understand the renters' struggle too," she said.

Ramirez-Rosa said, without some form of rebate, higher property taxes will lead to higher rent, which will force some people out of their homes, leaving them "displaced from communities that they have called home for decades."

The details of Ramirez-Rosa's plan to include renters in the property tax rebate have yet to be hashed out, but he said it could cost as much as $35 million.

Meantime, the mayor's rebate plan could get a vote in the City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday.

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