Property Tax Fairness
From the Center for Municipal Finance
News

How this work is impacting the community…

Pew Trusts cite the Center’s work in Chicago and Detroit in their report on racial inequities

Pew Trusts cite the Center’s work in Chicago and Detroit in their report on racial inequities

In 2017, the Chicago Tribune published a series of stories on the Cook County Tax Assessor’s Office, finding that for years the county’s property tax system had given huge financial breaks to homeowners in wealthier and largely white communities while placing an unfair burden on poorer people living in minority communities... In February, the Center for Municipal Finance at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy released a review of property assessments in Detroit between 2016-2018, finding that the property tax burden fell disproportionately on the city’s lowest-income homeowners.

The Center’s Property Tax Project is cited in the New York Times

The Center’s Property Tax Project is cited in the New York Times

In a newly released study, the University of Chicago’s Center for Municipal Finance analyzed Detroit’s 2016-2018 assessment data. They find that — while the average home price was $35,600 — the majority of lower-valued homes (less than $19,000 sale price) were assessed in excess of the Michigan Constitution’s established limit. Due in large part to systematic overcharging, Detroit has one of the highest property tax foreclosure rates of any city since the Great Depression.

Professor Chris Berry uses legal action as opportunity to highlight inequities
Professor Berry speaks to activists seeking end to tax inequities

Professor Berry speaks to activists seeking end to tax inequities

"Christopher Berry, academic director for the Center for Municipal Finance and one of the study's authors, said it's unfortunate that the reappraisal did not fix the overassessments.

'After having studied a lot of jurisdictions around the country, Detroit is not the only place that has this problem. But it is one of the worst that I've seen,' Berry said."

Critics of local assessor turn to the Center for expert analysis

Critics of local assessor turn to the Center for expert analysis

“'There are usually standards involved,' and entire sections of assessment textbooks lay them out, said Berry, a University of Chicago professor who helped design a new model for Berrios’ office that was never fully implemented.

When doing the hand-check process, analysts sometimes relied on data from internet sites like Zillow or Trulia 'for insight into home characteristics' — such as square footage and number of rooms — that can affect values. Berry said that’s problematic. 'If they are doing that for one set of homes and not others, that’s going to introduce nonuniformity into the process,' he said."

Local media turns to the Center in evaluating Chicago reforms

Local media turns to the Center in evaluating Chicago reforms

“'Berrios issued a virtually identical press release in 2015, and it turned out to be completely false,' said Berry, a longtime critic of Berrios’ assessment methods. 'Why would anyone believe him this time? If they really have done what they claim, they should immediately release all their data and code for the public to see.'

Still, Berry said, dramatically higher assessments in booming areas of the city like Edgewater 'could be an indication that the model could be getting more accurate. ... It’s virtually impossible not to improve their model.'”

Crain’s highlights the impact of the Center’s work on property taxes on upcoming elections

Crain’s highlights the impact of the Center’s work on property taxes on upcoming elections

"It is the first attempt to quantify the impact of well-documented disparities in the county's assessment process, a topic that has dominated the re-election campaign of besieged Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios. The report will provide more fodder for his two challengers, Fritz Kaegi and Andrea Ralia, who are trying to unseat Berrios in the March 20 Democratic primary."

The Center’s work spurs local government review

The Center’s work spurs local government review

“'We don’t need another study to tell us the system stinks,' said University of Chicago public policy professor Christopher Berry, who studied the system while developing a new residential valuation model for the county that was never implemented. 'If Toni Preckwinkle doesn’t believe the studies already done by the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Tribune, then she is simply choosing not to see the truth right in front of her face. She is siding with Joe Berrios over the truth, and over her constituents.'”

The Chicago Tribune features the Center in their exposé of Cook County property tax inequities

The Chicago Tribune features the Center in their exposé of Cook County property tax inequities

"An unprecedented analysis by the Tribune reveals that for years the county’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, handing huge financial breaks to homeowners who are well-off while punishing those who have the least, particularly people living in minority communities."

Chicago Magazine explores the impact of investigations by the Center and local media

Chicago Magazine explores the impact of investigations by the Center and local media

"A Tribune investigative team, led by Jason Grotto and with the assistance of the Center for Municipal Finance at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, just dropped a massive and fascinating report on the property tax system in Cook County and how assessments are skewed to undervalue expensive homes and overvalue inexpensive ones."

Pew Trusts cite the Center’s work in Chicago and Detroit in their report on racial inequities

Pew Trusts cite the Center’s work in Chicago and Detroit in their report on racial inequities

In 2017, the Chicago Tribune published a series of stories on the Cook County Tax Assessor’s Office, finding that for years the county’s property tax system had given huge financial breaks to homeowners in wealthier and largely white communities while placing an unfair burden on poorer people living in minority communities... In February, the Center for Municipal Finance at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy released a review of property assessments in Detroit between 2016-2018, finding that the property tax burden fell disproportionately on the city’s lowest-income homeowners.

The Center’s Property Tax Project is cited in the New York Times

The Center’s Property Tax Project is cited in the New York Times

In a newly released study, the University of Chicago’s Center for Municipal Finance analyzed Detroit’s 2016-2018 assessment data. They find that — while the average home price was $35,600 — the majority of lower-valued homes (less than $19,000 sale price) were assessed in excess of the Michigan Constitution’s established limit. Due in large part to systematic overcharging, Detroit has one of the highest property tax foreclosure rates of any city since the Great Depression.

Professor Chris Berry uses legal action as opportunity to highlight inequities
Professor Berry speaks to activists seeking end to tax inequities

Professor Berry speaks to activists seeking end to tax inequities

"Christopher Berry, academic director for the Center for Municipal Finance and one of the study's authors, said it's unfortunate that the reappraisal did not fix the overassessments.

'After having studied a lot of jurisdictions around the country, Detroit is not the only place that has this problem. But it is one of the worst that I've seen,' Berry said."

Critics of local assessor turn to the Center for expert analysis

Critics of local assessor turn to the Center for expert analysis

“'There are usually standards involved,' and entire sections of assessment textbooks lay them out, said Berry, a University of Chicago professor who helped design a new model for Berrios’ office that was never fully implemented.

When doing the hand-check process, analysts sometimes relied on data from internet sites like Zillow or Trulia 'for insight into home characteristics' — such as square footage and number of rooms — that can affect values. Berry said that’s problematic. 'If they are doing that for one set of homes and not others, that’s going to introduce nonuniformity into the process,' he said."

Local media turns to the Center in evaluating Chicago reforms

Local media turns to the Center in evaluating Chicago reforms

“'Berrios issued a virtually identical press release in 2015, and it turned out to be completely false,' said Berry, a longtime critic of Berrios’ assessment methods. 'Why would anyone believe him this time? If they really have done what they claim, they should immediately release all their data and code for the public to see.'

Still, Berry said, dramatically higher assessments in booming areas of the city like Edgewater 'could be an indication that the model could be getting more accurate. ... It’s virtually impossible not to improve their model.'”

Crain’s highlights the impact of the Center’s work on property taxes on upcoming elections

Crain’s highlights the impact of the Center’s work on property taxes on upcoming elections

"It is the first attempt to quantify the impact of well-documented disparities in the county's assessment process, a topic that has dominated the re-election campaign of besieged Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios. The report will provide more fodder for his two challengers, Fritz Kaegi and Andrea Ralia, who are trying to unseat Berrios in the March 20 Democratic primary."

The Center’s work spurs local government review

The Center’s work spurs local government review

“'We don’t need another study to tell us the system stinks,' said University of Chicago public policy professor Christopher Berry, who studied the system while developing a new residential valuation model for the county that was never implemented. 'If Toni Preckwinkle doesn’t believe the studies already done by the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Tribune, then she is simply choosing not to see the truth right in front of her face. She is siding with Joe Berrios over the truth, and over her constituents.'”

The Chicago Tribune features the Center in their exposé of Cook County property tax inequities

The Chicago Tribune features the Center in their exposé of Cook County property tax inequities

"An unprecedented analysis by the Tribune reveals that for years the county’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, handing huge financial breaks to homeowners who are well-off while punishing those who have the least, particularly people living in minority communities."

Chicago Magazine explores the impact of investigations by the Center and local media

Chicago Magazine explores the impact of investigations by the Center and local media

"A Tribune investigative team, led by Jason Grotto and with the assistance of the Center for Municipal Finance at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, just dropped a massive and fascinating report on the property tax system in Cook County and how assessments are skewed to undervalue expensive homes and overvalue inexpensive ones."