Peoria, Ill. (WMBD) — During the recent lame-duck session of the state legislature, House Bill 3878, the rental housing support fee, gained passage.
The current rental housing support fee is $9 per document, but starting July 1, that fee will be doubled to $18. These real estate related documents can include selling a home and having the title company file the deed with their office.
The rental housing support fee program started in 2005. Until the recent HB was passed, many counties didn’t know the fee program existed.
On Tuesday, county clerks from around Illinois addressed the issues within the bill.
“The way the program is instituted, 70% of the funds go directly to the city of Chicago and Cook County, leaving very little to be distributed throughout the rest of the state, while at the same time, the city of Chicago and Cook County only contribute 36% of the funding to the program,” said Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman.
From July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, in total, all Illinois counties paid just above $19 million, with 35% of the fees coming from Chicago.
In Tazewell County, $150,000 in revenue is created annually from the fee, but where do the dollars go?
“Every land property deed transaction that takes place would be charged that $9 fee. As of July, it will be doubled to 18,” said Ackerman. “We keep none of that as a county that is only goes to the state for the benefit of this program. And like I said, then we’re not receiving from the state anything back for that contribution.”
Counties can apply for grants, but many didn’t know it even existed.
“It’s a competitive grant situation, so you have to ask for it and in order to get it. What was disappointing is to find out that people didn’t even know to ask for it,” said Illinois State Senator Dave Koehler.
When the money is doled out, the counties can use the money for what they please.
With 70% of the state’s rental housing support program fees going to Cook County, local county clerks want their taxpayer’s money to go into their own communities.
The bill was assigned to a task force, and the clerks are recommending the bill distribute the money more equally.
“That task force, it doesn’t write legislation, it delivers recommendations. They need to immediately take action on those recommendations to guarantee that the funds are more equitably distributed throughout the state,” said Ackerman.
They also discussed the lack of public knowledge about the program.
“It’s important that individuals that are contributing that tax revenue see what it’s being utilized for,” said Ackerman. “And to date, we can’t do that. We can’t explain to them because the state doesn’t share that information.”
State Senator Koehler said if local counties end up getting the grant money, he has an idea of what it could be used for.
“Since we are contributing money as downstate communities to this program that we get our fair share back to address our own, you know, issues of homelessness and housing inadequacy in the area,” said Koehler.
Koehler also proposed the idea of a bi-partisan downstate housing caucus so the bill can be more thoroughly understood in the central and southern areas of Illinois.