Bellwood’s homebuilding efforts rewarded with tax breaks

Village took on problematic empty lots it owned by building houses on them

Chicago Suburb’s Homebuilding Efforts Earn Big Tax Breaks
Mayor Andre Harvey (Village of Bellwood, Google Maps, Getty)

Bellwood’s residential real estate scene just got a boost from a new state law that halved property tax bills for homes built by the village of 18,000 people. 

The legislation recognized Bellwood’s unique approach to revitalizing its housing stock, which for eight years, has involved building homes itself to fill vacant lots, Crain’s reported. Since 2016, the west suburban village has constructed and sold 25 homes. 

With the passage of HB 1137 by the Illinois General Assembly on May 24, owners of those homes will see their property tax assessments cut in half for 10 years, so long as the homes are owner-occupied and have not been resold.

The tax break will “enhance affordability” amid high mortgage rates, Mayor Andre Harvey said.

A three-bedroom house that sold for $405,000 in January 2023 will see annual tax savings of about $8,600, for example, reducing monthly housing costs by over $700.

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The legislation, sponsored by several representatives including Illinois Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch, is designed specifically for homes built by municipalities on village-owned land, like the ones in Bellwood. It applies to homes constructed after January 2021, so it only affects two existing homes and five that are in development.

The tax break addressed the lack of revenue generated by vacant lots, said Peter Tsiolis, Bellwood’s economic development director. By halving the tax on new homes, Bellwood still sees a net gain in property tax revenue.

The tax incentive is expected to further incentivize homebuyers and align with residents’ desires for fewer vacant lots and more housing.

Mayor Harvey sees no reason why other towns shouldn’t adopt Bellwood’s model, suggesting it could be a valuable strategy for municipalities facing similar challenges.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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