Local News

Durham weighs helping low-income homeowners handle rising property taxes

Posted February 26, 2016 7:10 p.m. EST

— Some Durham City Council members have proposed a city grant program to help low-income residents pay their property taxes as a way to maintain affordable housing in some neighborhoods.

A revaluation has sent the property taxes in and near downtown Durham soaring, making the area unaffordable for some residents.

"I'm not a math major. It was significantly lower, and now it's astronomically higher," Michele Hughes, who has owned a home near downtown since 2007, said of her tax bill.

"Low-income homeowners in certain neighborhoods face displacement due to a higher burden of property taxes," Councilwoman Jillian Johnson said.

The state already provides assistance with taxes to some people, but Johnson said a city grant program would have broader requirements, allowing younger people who earn slightly higher incomes to apply.

"The intention (is) that people who live in the neighborhoods are able to stay in their homes long term, that the city itself is not becoming a vehicle for gentrification," she said.

The City Council discussed the idea at a budget meeting Friday, but it remains unclear how the city would fund the grant program.

Johnson said Durham would still need other programs to ensure a stable supply of affordable housing.

"I think this is something the city can do to intervene on a small scale right now," she said of the grant program, "but I think that we are facing a crisis of affordable housing."