As property assessments and health care costs continue to rise, many of Arlington’s senior citizens are faced with a hard choice. After many years, my mom and many of her friends had to ask themselves: “Must I leave my home in order to make ends meet?” I developed my business to create an affordable alternative for maintenance challenges, and I enthusiastically applaud the progress we have made in accommodating the needs of our older citizens.
Arlington's Real Estate Tax Relief (RETR) program allows eligible, low income homeowners aged 65 or over or permanently disabled homeowners to be unburdened by real estate taxes with two options. With deferral, eligible seniors can defer all or part of their taxes until the home is sold or the homeowner dies. This program enables seniors to stay in their home, with taxes being repaid upon the homeowner's death. With tax exemption, eligible seniors are forgiven their tax bill each year, allowing the homeowner to stay in their home without passing on a large tax burden to their family members when they die. Many families would not be able to afford to pay a large tax bill upon inheritance and would therefore be forced to sell the property.
Arlington's RETR program history shows that few seniors choose deferral, similar to their reluctance to obtain a reverse mortgage to pay their real estate taxes. Most seniors choose to sacrifice their own needs and choose to leave their homes rather than create a situation where their families must choose between keeping the family home or finding money to repay the taxes.
I strongly support continuing Arlington's Real Estate Tax Relief (RETR) program, and the County Board appointed working group to develop options that could strengthen the RETR program.
I support the following:
- Add transparency by increasing the amount of information available to tax payers about the program.
- Continue to offer both tax deferrals and tax exemptions.
- Use County influence with lending institutions to ensure that tax deferrals are not a barrier to maintaining a mortgage ensuring Arlingtonians have equal access to this key aging in place strategy.
- Allow for extraordinary health or home expenses to be considered when determining eligibility
- Adjust periodically eligibility criteria to ensure those most in need are served by the program.
- Streamline the requirements for home-sharing to help seniors who want to stay in their homes, by making it easier to rent out part of a home, and simplify zoning to make it easier for seniors to generate income to defray expenses.
Finally, I support County government support for local non-profits who help folks stay in their homes, handle unforeseen drops in income or health emergencies, or provide food assistance will continue to important to maintaining a strong safety net for Arlingtonians.