Arlington is getting more expensive to live in year after year. For many Arlingtonians, the continually rising rents and property values are making it harder to stay in the county. During the tax relief study, one member of the working group was priced out of their home. Arlington County currently offers tax relief for elderly residents, but at its July 14 meeting, the County Board unanimously approved a series of changes that will alter the program to the better for some and more challenging to others.
“People want to age in place,” said Laurie Young, chair of the Commission on Aging. “I’m grateful for tax relief for elders. You provide a way for folks to remain in their homes. Aging in place would be in jeopardy without that.”
Two of the biggest changes to the program are an extension in the application deadline and increasing the program’s exemption asset limit. The original deadline was Aug. 15, but the deadline was moved to Nov. 15 and the exception asset limit was increased from $340,000 to $400,000. Currently, homeowners with assets greater than $340,000 but less than $540,000 may qualify for a deferral. Deferrals allow homeowners to postpone payment of some or all of the real estate taxes, to be paid without interest or penalties when the property changes ownership.
The changes will net Arlington $153,898 of revenue that was previously not being collected.
However, some local residents say the new changes overestimate how far those numbers can go for elderly or disabled residents.
“I’m one of those people supposedly wealthy,” said Gail Davis. “I am also disabled and almost 75 years old. The theory that I can take equity out of my house and pay your tax bill: I already have two mortgages on my house. I took out a home equity line which just converted to full payment…If I sold the house, I would have nothing left.”
County Board member John Vihstadt said he recognized the concerns of citizens, but that the change was necessary to help cover costs elsewhere.
“Seniors’ real estate tax relief is a critical component of aging in community and aging in place,” said Vihstadt. “Many do want to remain in their own home. They don’t want other living arrangements which ultimately they may have to transition to. At the same time, we do need to be mindful of property tax trends and affordability at all ages.”