The Equity Factor

D.C. Bill Would Eliminate Property Taxes for Senior Homeowners

We think its protections should extend to renters, too.

Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Credit: Elvert Barnes Photography

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

In the face of swift gentrification across many parts of the city, Washington, D.C. lawmakers want to give tax relief to some longtime, elderly residents who may feel the pinch of rising property values. Earlier this month, the D.C. Council gave unanimous preliminary approval to a bill that would exempt certain low- and moderate-income homeowners over the age of 75 from their property taxes.

Now, before you rage against cutting taxes for people who may have large sums of cash stowed away for retirement, think about how specific the parameters are: The bill would apply to homeowners who meet the age requirement, have lived in the District for at least 15 years, and make $60,000 or less annually. It would be a huge assist to those aging in place.

Despite the unanimous approval early on, some council members have said that the bill, introduced by at-large Councilmember Anita Bonds, would need to undergo changes before it heads to a final vote. A separate bill from Councilmember Jack Evans has proposed capping the yearly increase of the homeowner’s property tax at 5 percent, regardless of any large spikes in property value.

There are certainly a few kinks to iron out in Bonds’ bill. One thing I’d like to see added is a similar provision for renters. According to the American Community Survey, 40.4 percent of renters in the District spend more than 35 percent of their income on rent. And, as of the 2010 Census, renters between the ages of 75 and 84 accounted for 3.8 percent of all renters, while those 85 and over made up 1.9 percent of renters.

These numbers aren’t neighborhood-specific, and they don’t tell us how long those renters have been in the District. But it demonstrates that the 75 and over rental demographic is pretty small, which means it shouldn’t be too hard to accommodate. As you can see in the data from the 2010 Census to the left, D.C. homeowners aged 75 to 84 account for 8.9 percent of the city’s homeowners, while those 85 and over account for 4 percent.

Why not give the renters some much-needed tax relief, as they are likely in a much more precarious situation? Of the 266,707 occupied housing units in the District, 8,837 are rentals housing folks 75 and older. That’s a very small slice of the population. The city could offer senior renters who qualify help in the form of a tax credit, like the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Bill Bradley is a writer and reporter living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Deadspin, GQ, and Vanity Fair, among others.

Follow Bill

Tags: affordable housingwashington dcequity factortaxesbig datababy boomers

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities
  • Brandi in Louisville, KY at $5/Month
  • Nancy at $10/Month
  • Gavri in Plantation, FL at $10/Year

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine

has donated ! Thank you 🎉