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Protect long-term residents when real estate values go up

June 13, 2019 05:15 am

To the editor:

Hudson is going through a property value reassessment which has been a difficult process and/or shock to many. We are a wonderful small city, and my husband and I have chosen Hudson as our home. But as new-comers to our town, we have also helped to drive an increase in property values. Some call this gentrification, which has a particular impact on our long-term residents. Some might say that they should be glad that their property values are going up since they now have a more valuable asset, however, they may not want to move! Until they are ready to sell, they are just faced with a higher tax bill.

Other cities, including Philadelphia, have tackled this problem with a Long-Term Resident Program (LOOP). The key components are that 1) the value of the property has increased by over a certain percentage since the last assessment, 2) the owner has lived in the house for a certain length of time, and 3) the household income is below a certain amount depending on the number of people living in the home.

The property tax process is governed by New York State law. If we want a program like this in Hudson, we need to lobby for a change at the state legislature. If you think this is a good idea, please write your representatives in Hudson and state legislature to build support.

Property taxes are how we pay for our city’s services. The reassessment process ensures that our taxes are distributed fairly. We are happy to pay our fair share of taxes, and we don’t want to see our long-term neighbors hurt.

Katherine Kanaga


There are fundamental issues that need to be addressed in the highly imperfect "art" of real estate assessment. Ms. Kanaga correctly explains that property taxes are supposed to foot city, town, or village services. What that doesn't address is that most demands on government services are based on the number of individuals who must be served in the tax base. An elderly couple living in the same home for twenty or thirty years are going to draw down less services than a family or group of six people living in a similar abode with young children. Just on a basic level they are likely going to use three times or more the amount of water and sewer, and demographically be more expensive to serve for health emergencies and be two or three times more likely to require police or fire calls. If six people are renting, and their landlord is charged a lower tax on their building than that elderly couple are assessed, then in effect that landlord is pocketing the lower tax as a profit. It is doubtful, she or he is sharing that tax support with their tenants.

Ms. Kanaga seems principally concerned with "long term" v. "new-comers," the implication being that the "new-comers" are driving up everyone's values by paying more. But, there should be a major consideration as to whether they are buying "as investment" or to own a primary residence that they intend to inhabit. Otherwise, Ms. Kanaga is simply supporting the "us v. them" mentality that tries to soak new home owners in Columbia and Greene with high new assessed taxes. That's neither fare, nor wise. New home owners tend to invest much more in the quality of their housing stock when they purchase to inhabit it themselves. They provide local workers with jobs, and they inject new blood into our communities. Does an investor who lives outside the city buying a fixer upper and putting up the minimum to rent out as an AirBnB or to as many occupants as possible do the same? Hardly.

Similarly, it's a mistake to rest home valuation upon household income. Income tax is income tax. Real estate tax should actually be reconfigured to assess properties according to the number of individuals inhabiting the property and calculating the draw down of services they will require. The number of bedrooms and the number of baths is often going to be the best data that the government has to go on. If someone wants to own a five bedroom home with five baths, and live in it themselves, it's fair for the government to guess that they'll be having a lot of house guests and relatives using their facilities. Otherwise, why wouldn't they buy a dwelling with less? There's no, "perfect way" to be fair as property assessment is a multi-factoring art, but there can certainly be much more fairness than can be ascertained from a system that penalizes people who own and live in their own home, v. people buying to profit by renting out.