City of Durham officials to extend property tax relief by 2022


Some of the apartment buildings and townhouses in Phase 1 of the Southside development near downtown Durham take shape in this March 2014 photo.

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The City of Durham wants to expand a tax relief program that helps residents pay higher tax bills due to its revitalization.

In 2019, county reassessments increased the average tax value of a home by more than 25%, The News & Observer previously reported. Home values ​​in neighborhoods like Southside where redevelopment has taken place have increased by almost 79%.

In response, the city sent letters to residents of Southside, Northeast Central Durham, and Southwest Central Durham announcing its longtime homeowner grant program. The program gives owners a check to cover the increase in their tourist taxes between 2016 and 2019. Subsidies do not have to be reimbursed.

Sixty-three applications have been received since April 2021 and the application deadline has been extended to August 21.

The city’s program is separate from state and county tax relief programs. County Durham also offers a Property Assistance Tax Assessor with simplified multiple-choice questions to help determine which statewide programs residents are eligible for.

Reginald Johnson, director of the city’s community development department, spoke with city council last week about expanding the city’s program beyond the three neighborhoods it now serves.

The city attorney’s office recommended that the program be extended city-wide or to areas where city housing investments have taken place. They also advise that payments be made directly to the tax collector on behalf of the qualified applicant.

To be eligible, applicants must own and have lived in their home since July 2012 and have a family income of 80% or less than the region’s median income.

If scaled up to the entire city, the program could serve about 19,655 homeowners, based on census data.

City council members will likely vote on the proposal in November to pass in 2022.

Mayor Steve Schewel suggested at last week’s meeting that instead of expanding the city’s program, council ask the county to expand eligibility for its own tax relief program. The county’s program defers tax increases for qualifying residents for 10 years or until they sell their home, whichever comes first.

“I am very concerned that we are putting in place a big infrastructure program for a city wide program, when I think the best thing we can do by far is get [Durham] County to expand its AMI from 30% to 60%, ”Schewel said. “This is what I think we will take care of what we need because it will be an elevator with a lot of bureaucracy.”

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