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Cook County Residents Are in Shock As Assessments Arrive in the Mail

By Gary Smith
Cook County Residents Are in Shock As Assessments Arrive in the Mail

For the 2018 property tax assessment year, homeowners in Humboldt Park, on Chicago’s West Side, have seen the taxable value of their homes go up 40 percent since 2016.

This tracks with the rise in taxable values of homes in the trendiest neighborhoods in Chicago, including Logan Square, West Town, and the West Loop.

High Assessments Hit Homeowners Hard

On the three blocks next to Humboldt Park, the taxable value has risen by more than 50 percent. The only other area that has seen more of an increase is near Logan Square.

The price of median-priced single-family homes in Humboldt Park has risen about 45 percent since the last tax assessment. Logan Square has seen home prices rise about 17 percent.

Part of the issue is that Cook County’s assessments are based on years past, meaning the that the current assessments are based on sales from 2015 to 2017, which are the years of peak recovery from the earlier housing bust. In addition, these neighborhoods are the strongest-sellers in Chicago.

According to the Cook County Assessor’s office, the median taxable value of homes rose by more than 40 percent overall since the last assessment three years ago.

To contrast, the re-assessments of suburban Cook County in 2016 and 2017 had a majority of homes where the increase was below 20 percent.

In Chicago, neither home prices nor property tax assessments go up uniformly, and only one in eight ZIP codes have home values that have recovered to pre-recession levels.

What’s hard for homeowners to understand is how the assessment fits into the overall property tax bill equation. An increase in a home’s assessment doesn’t necessarily directly translate into a same-sized increase in a property tax bill. That is dependent on the tax rate, which is determined without regard to the home’s assessment.

Homeowners are frustrated that these increases will hit all at once, likely sapping their savings that they might have spent fixing up their house or spending it at local businesses within their community.

The Cook County Assessor’s office has completed six of the eight Chicago townships so far this year. In Lake View Township, for instance, the median increase was 35 percent. No neighborhood to this point has seen increases that have surpassed the ones in the West Township.