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Well, Tom, the halving of property taxes gets everyone under around $100K. The other program I cited would be for truly low-income singles or couples. I've helped a couple families in my neighborhood apply for it, and the upper limit for a family of 4 is about $60K (it operates on a sliding scale to a cut-off). So, for a single or couple it's lower. But I don't consider a 10% MAX increase in property taxes year-over-year to be "skyrocketing." If you're a senior with income under about $100K who owns a median home in DC (worth about $450K), the most your property taxes could increase year-over-year is $13/month. If you have reportable income of $50K/year, that's .3% of your income each year, if and only if your property is and continues to appreciate at a rate of 10%/year or greater. And if your income is lower than that, you're likely eligible for the low-income property tax credit, so the increase would be less to nothing (depending on income).

In my experience, it's not property taxes that force people out, but maintenance concerns. Where they would have cleaned the gutters or fixed the railing or weeded the garden themselves, they find themselves paying someone to do it or letting the place deteriorate until it's barely livable. And as the house ages, more major work becomes necessary. Maybe that's something the summer employment program could help out with, to some extent, and charities could help with as well. The other item is utility bills. Heating, cooling, and powering a 3- to 4-bedroom house for only 1 or 2 people to live there begins to strain the budget.

I wouldn't be opposed to a deferred taxation scheme, but that hinges on ever-increasing property values and seniors living in homes that are not heavily leveraged. Those assumptions work right now, but they may not work forever or in every neighborhood or situation. I'd much prefer to see an innovative scheme to help seniors get into more appropriate housing in the city, if not their own neighborhood. Some kind of way to let them sell their family homes to families and let them move into a smaller space nearby where the purchase cost, as well as maintenance and utility costs, aren't a burden. I agree that the city has much to offer seniors, but a large SFH can be a burden when all the kids are gone and you're no longer earning that income nor able to keep up with the upkeep. I admit that I don't know exactly how to make this work, but it seems like it might be possible, if people who have experience with these kinds of things thought a smidge outside of the box.

by Ms. D on Feb 14, 2013 11:30 pm • linkreport

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