Local elected leaders mostly agreed Thursday night to work with Wake County nonprofits to help low-income residents pay their tax bills.
One Wake, a nonprofit made up of religious organizations, and Habitat of Humanity of Wake County, held an in-person and virtual meeting to pitch their plan for long-time homeowners. Three women shared their stories of living in Rochester Heights and the burden of property taxes on their families.
“Sometimes it’s just about time for the next tax bill to come out before I finished paying it,” said Martha Elaine Peebles-Brown, whose father built many of the homes in the historically Black neighborhood. “I could say that I’m embarrassed to say that. But really, I don’t think I should be, considering the facts that we heard tonight.”
The nonprofits propose a program for homeowners who have lived in their homes for 10 years or more, who earn up to 80% of the area median income and who pay more than 2% of their household income on property taxes.
They knocked on hundreds of homes to talk with residents about what they would need to be able to stay in their homes. In those conversations, homeowners described of “a tale of two cities,” said the Rev. Lisa Yebuah.
“On one side, there’s new development, luxury apartments, new retail, trendy restaurants,” she said. “And these places seem to be enjoyed by those who have a particular type of income that they can access these particular resources.
“Yet, on the other side, there’s a history of segregation, underdevelopment and lack of resources,” she continued. “So this new surge of development feels intrusive and oftentimes creates displacement.”
Wake County Commissioners Chair Matt Calabria and Raleigh City Council members Corey Branch and Stormie Forte attended the meeting and pledged to work with One Wake and Habitat for Humanity “to implement a new property tax assistance for long-time, low-income homeowners.”
A statement was read from Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin that encouraged One Wake to help promote statewide programs currently available to low-income seniors, disabled individuals and veterans.
“I look forward to working with you and my colleagues on the Raleigh City Council and the Wake County Commission to potentially expand on these (state) programs and meet the needs of our residents,” she said. “My hope is we can all come together on a practical solution to help ensure that Raleigh remains a city of progress, opportunity and compassion.”
Those programs assist fewer than 6,000 households in Wake County this year, according to Marcus Kinrade, Wake County’s tax administrator.
“It certainly wouldn’t help the many homeowners that we’ve heard from this evening,” said the Rev. James Kubal-Kumoto. “That program that you mentioned would leave them out. The neighborhoods of southeast Raleigh have already been left out for too long too many times before. Mayor Baldwin I am inviting you to make a firmer commitment to us and to figure out how to include those who have been left out for too long.”
To watch a video from the event go to www.facebook.com/onewakeiaf.