Property Tax Coalition Fights for Exemption

" I'm really concerned about being pushed out of my home"

Tim Wenger
October 03, 2019 - 8:34 pm

WBEN Photo/Brendan Keany

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Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - Soaring property values in Buffalo and a recently completed reassessment of nearly 100,000 properties in the city has a coalition of property owners seeking a partial property tax exemption that would be income-qualifying.

The Buffalo Property Tax Coalition gathered in Buffalo City Hall Thursday as the Common Council’s Finance Committee held a special evening hearing to hear from residents about the need for the exemption.  The expemption, the coalition says, is to protect homeowners from displacement.

"Im here because I'm really concerned about being pushed out of my home", said Lucy Velez of PUSH Buffalo, who says her property tax under the reassessment would be five or six times the norm.  Homeowners attending the hearing and said they face unaffordable increases in their property tax bills.  The coalition says that without action from the Council, low-income homeowners who can’t pay their new bills may be forced to sell their homes face foreclosure.

The council has discussed an exemption that would freeze assessments for income-qualifying seniors and have lived and owned their home for more than twenty-five years. The coalition doesn’t believe this measure goes far enough and says exemptions should apply regardless of age, and they say length of home ownership should be removed as a requirement.

  • The exemption should apply regardless of age. This issue is not just impacting seniors, but all homeowners who live within limited means. While seniors have substantial exemptions at their disposal (e.g. enhanced STAR, senior exemption) most non-seniors can’t get any exemptions except very limited basic STAR relief. 
  • The length of ownership requirement should be lowered or removed. It is common for low-income homeowners to wait years before transferring a home’s title into their name due to time and financial constraints. Further, someone who has lived in home for 15, 10 or even 5 years can significantly contribute to the dynamics of a neighborhood and should not be displaced.

For change to occur, the Common Council would need to pass a resolution asking the state to enable and exception and the state would have to pass an enabling act to allow the city to do it.

 

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