I just read the piece about “Aging in Arlington” from the July 18 edition about the Real Estate Tax Relief, RETR, program but the full picture was not represented. The program is not without its critics. I served on the three-year study that completed the Affordable Housing Master Plan, AHMP, which asked for a review of RETR.
I also served on the working group that responded to the County Board's call to take a look at RETR.
The AHMP deliberately wrote objective 2.4 to read "Enable Arlington seniors to age in the community," not age in their homes. Many are concerned that the RETR helps fewer than 1,000 of Arlington's seniors and the heirs of all but 26 of the participants will never have to pay back the outstanding taxes. That's about $5 million of foregone revenue annually. Why isn't this a deferral program? Why don't the heirs help these seniors? Why don't these seniors use reverse mortgages? Some of the participants have low income and low assets, others are moderately comfortable in their $700,000-plus houses while their Arlington neighbors pay all or part of their real estate taxes.
Arlington has a great need for more schools and better salaries to retain police, fire, and educators — employees who can't afford to be homeowners in this community.