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Mayor Thomas Koch’s office is considering a change that would raise property taxes on higher-priced homes and on apartment and condominium buildings in order to give tax relief to lower-priced, owner-occupied homes.
But Koch says the change is a long shot.
“I don’t see how we can absorb it as a city,” he said this week.
Last month, the city council backed a request by Council President Kirsten Hughes asking Koch to evaluate the impact of adopting a residential exemption in Quincy. The local option, established by state law, allows a municipality to reduce the taxable valuation of a property if it’s the taxpayer’s principal residence.
Owner-occupied homes would receive a tax break of a dollar amount that’s based on a somewhat complicated formula that exempts up to 20 percent of the average assessed value of all residential properties in the city. Granting the exemption raises the residential tax rate and shifts the burden from low- and moderately-valued, owner-occupied homes to apartments, condos, second homes and higher-valued homes.
To date, 14 communities in the state, including Boston, Cambridge, Malden, Chelsea, Somerville, Provincetown and Nantucket, have adopted the residential exemption, with some of them getting approval from the state Legislature to raise the exemption to 30 or 35 percent of the average assessed value of all residential properties.
The exemption is being considered in Quincy at a time when a spate of luxury apartment and condominium structures are being built across the city. Quincy city councilors have also been hearing from homeowners who say they’re struggling to afford rising tax bills. The owner of an average single-family home in Quincy is paying $5,277 in property taxes in 2016, a 6 percent increase from last year and a 20 percent jump from 2010.
Quincy’s average tax bill is lower than the statewide average, which is $5,419, but many longtime city residents – including the elderly on fixed incomes – say they can’t continue shouldering the increases.
Hughes, who represents Ward 5, said last month that the exemption could be an opportunity to “deliver real substantial tax relief without the burden of cutting services.” However, she said she has consulted with Dave D’Arcangelo, a Malden city councilor, who’s critical of the exemption in his city.
Hughes said while the exemption would de-incentivize absentee landlords, she said it could unfairly punish developers and landlords who revitalize blighted properties and invest in the city.
“I have real mixed feelings about it. I’m not sure if I’d be in favor of it,” she said.
Koch said raising taxes on apartment and condo buildings could lead to higher rents at a time when the city’s affordable-housing stock is already on the decline. He said communities like Boston have a tax base that can absorb the shift in costs.
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