A new program will offer qualified homeowners up to $ 750 in tax breaks.
The Durham County Department of Social Services, in partnership with the Durham County Tax Office, launched the low-income homeowner assistance program on Wednesday.
“We really want to try to keep our homeowners here in Durham and not let them move because the taxes on our property are so high,” said Janeen Gordon, assistant director of aged and adult services for Durham County.
Impact of gentrification in Durham
Property values in Durham have risen in recent years, attracting wealthier people to the area and increasing property taxes. The average retail price for homes sold in Durham rose over 50% between mid-2010 and October 2019.
This gentrification process is leading to the displacement of low-income residents and triggering the old black neighborhoods that have been in Durham for many years.
Gentrification was particularly worrying when Duke juniors and seniors were denied on-campus accommodation for fall semester 2020. The decision worried affordable housing experts that landlords could raise rent and evict low-income tenants to rent to desperate students looking for off-campus housing.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on eviction ended on August 26th, and landlords have also started evicting tenants for non-payment of rent. The LIHR aims to address this by making it easier for long-time, low-income property owners in Durham to pay their tax bills.
“Gentrification is real in this city, and we just want to make sure we cater to the homeowners who have been here for a long time,” said Gordon.
Over the past 20 years, downtown Durham has gone 51% whiter according to the US Census. According to the county’s 2014-2018 Health Report, only 29% of black residents and 33% of Hispanic and Latin American residents own their homes.
According to the Durham Herald Sun, five of Durham County’s 60 census counties have gentrified, including portions of Cleveland-Holloway, West End, Walltown, and Old West Durham. Thirteen other wings have “gentrification potential”.
This is how the grant works
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Sign up for our editorially curated weekly newsletter. Cancel anytime.
To qualify for the program, homeowners must have an income less than 30% of the median income of the area, have had the primary residence in their property for at least 10 years, and have not received any other property tax assistance, among other things.
The LIHR grant is awarded annually on a first-come, first-serve basis and is equal to 50% of the 2020-21 Durham County’s tax bill but cannot exceed $ 750.
“We are hopeful as we continue to receive calls about the program,” said Gordon. “At the moment we only accept applications via our online application tool. [but] We will soon also be offering applications by telephone. It is important that people have multiple options to apply for this particular program. “
The program is only valid for the 2021 tax year, when taxes are due on January 5, 2022. The program ends on December 31, 2021.
After all applications have been processed, the corresponding payments are transferred to the tax department on behalf of the authorized and requested persons. The pilot program will then be reassessed for future tax years.