The TIF Illumination Project


New_Lgo+tag+TIP The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Illumination Project is an ongoing civic investigation and education project that will take an in-depth look at the impacts of TIFs on the city on a ward-by-ward basis. We are developing data analysis tools and visualization tools like charts, posters and web sites to explore and explain TIFs.

It’s a BIG deal – In 2013 a total of $683 million in property taxes were extracted by a total of 435 TIFs across all of Cook County. $422 million was taken in city property taxes from 151 TIFs inside Chicago and $261 million was extracted in suburban property taxes from the 284 TIFs in the suburbs.

TIP home pageOur work lives on a sister web site – – which is serving as a news aggregation site currently.


Over 230 people packed the space to listen to local finance expert Professor Richard Dye, CivicLab co-founder Tom Tresser and award-winning political reporter Ben Joravsky talk TIFs. See the media coverage and Tom’s presentation materials on our research of the 12 TIFs inside the 27th Ward here.

Since then we have worked with volunteers from across the city to present information TIFs in neighborhoods across the city.

You can learn more about these presentations here.

You can watch four brief videos of TIF organizers telling why they got involved in this project here.


TIF Illumination Project organizer Tom Tresser was interviewed by WBEZ Public Radio’s “Curious City” Project:

There are 443 TIF districts in Cook County.

To start this project we have selected the 27th Ward on Chicago’s Near North side, which has 12 TIFs running through it. The one with the smallest footprint in the ward, the Pulaski Industrial Corridor, is only 2% inside the ward. The Kinzie Industrial Corridor has 86% of it’s land mass inside the ward.

We have built a tool set that allows us to look at the number of properties that are in each TIF district and then overlay that map on top of the ward boundaries. This tells us exactly which part of a TIF is in a ward. We then look up how much property tax has been paid by those properties. We know how much property tax is captured by a TIF district if a given property is IN a TIF. We then total up the TIF revenues extracted by the TIFs for the given ward. We are almost finished with the analysis for the 27th ward. We then looked at the total TIF extraction from these 12 TIFs over the past nine years – that’s how long all these 12 TIFs have “lived together.” IT’S A HUGE NUMBER.

We take this data and gave it our graphic designer, Carlyn So, who turned it into a graphic poster. Here is the poster for the 27th Ward. We tell you the following information, on a ward-by-ward-basis:

(1) How many TIFs are in your ward, and what percentage of each TIF,

(2) How much property tax those TIFs extracted last year,

(3) How much money was LEFT in those TIF accounts at the start of this year,

(4) What projects were funded by TIFs inside the ward.

No one else can tell you these things. If you would like YOUR ward Illuminated, contact us at [email protected]


We don’t think you get a prize for being in THIS Top 10 list…

Do YOU live in a TIF-saturated ward? How much have YOU paid? What projects got public subsidies where YOU live?

[How Do TIFs Work?] [Visit The TIF Reports web site to see our ongoing research]

5 thoughts on “The TIF Illumination Project”

  1. What would you do with $1.7 billion?
    TIF Access Project presents: Tax Increment Financing
    What it is. What it means for you. How to Apply.

    Featuring Rachel Weber (Urban Planning and Policy Program Professor at UIC) , Tom Tressel (TIF Illumination Project Organizer) and Dinah Wayne ( Dept of Housing and Economic Development)

    Date: November 21, 2013
    Time: 9:00am to 11:00am

    Location: Richard J. Daley Library, Room 1-470
    801 S. Morgan St.
    This event is absolutely free!
    Refreshments will be served!
    Please RSVP to Sarah Boulton @ [email protected]

    In order to ensure the information provided at this meeting is beneficial to all who attend we are asking that you please take a moment to fill out our brief survey on TIF funding.

    We hope to see you on November 21st! Thank you for your time!

    TIF Access Project

Leave a Reply