Homeowners Claim ‘Unfair Property Taxes’
One of those who believe they are being mistreated by the city is Jason Novetsky, of Beach 115 Street in Rockaway Park.
He told The Wave that he struggles to keep up with a property tax rate that is ever-increasing, despite the state of the economy and local real estate market.
The long-held belief that property taxes would fall in proportion to property taxes is apparently not operative in the city, he said.
Novetsky is a teacher and his wife a social worker.
The couple has recently rented out the second floor of their house to help with expenses, especially property taxes.
He says that his property taxes have doubled since he and his wife bought the home in 2005, at the same time the home’s market value, according to the city’s own numbers, has decreased significantly.
In 2012 alone, Novetsky’s home dropped in estimated market value by $27,000 from the previous tax year, to just below $400,000.
Novetsky claims that he and his wife are not the only homeowners experiencing trouble with property tax rates. He believes that a large portion of New York City homeowners are in a similar situation to his own.
“For many people, the market value of their property has gone down precipitously, while their property taxes keep going up,” he stated. “Property taxes are supposed to be tethered to property value, so it makes no sense at all. It sort of defies logic. Homes in one part of the city are being taxed more than properties of the same value in another part of the city. Homes worth more than $1 million are paying the same property taxes as I am.”
Novetsky says he has grown increasingly frustrated by the apparent lack of ex- actitude and fairness he and other homeowners are experiencing.
“It’s a system where the wealthy people stay wealthy. There’s a lack of consistency, and I’m not sure whether it’s a conspiracy or simply a matter of incompetence,” he said.
Scott Baker, a Manhattan-based author, community activist and president of the group Common Ground NYC, says this is a well-established and long running problem. “Assessments (of value) are notoriously lagging. It takes years for assessments to catch up to real values. It may have little to do with market value,” he said. The Common Ground NYC group advocates a citywide switch to Land Value Taxation, or LVT.
“The four classes are Byzantine, and nobody likes the system,” said Baker, referring to the four tax-classes dividing different types of commercial and residential properties. It’s been adjusted over the years, but nobody is happy with it. We’re trying to tax all the land equally, and more fairly, based upon its value, regardless of whether it’s built upon or not.”
In advocacy of the LVT system, Common Ground NYC cites a recent study by the office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, which tallied 1,723 vacant buildings and 505 vacant lots in Manhattan alone. The same study counted 22.2 square miles of vacant land city-wide. “The space we all need, for housing and commerce, is being hoarded by speculators,” states the Common Ground website. The group places blame squarely on the tax system. “We’re saying that instead of encouraging developers to build, we’re discouraging from hoarding,” says Baker. “Seventy percent of property owners would be paying less in taxes if we replaced building taxes with land taxes. Under that system, the landowner with undeveloped land plots is going to pay more.”
At a recent meeting on the proposed closure of the esplanade gap near the United Nations in East Midtown Manhattan, State Senator Liz Krueger commented that “all New York City issues are land-use issues,“ but also that people may be worried about overly-dense development if the LVT system were put in place. But Baker argues that this statement simply proves that LVT would be effective, and would benefit homeowners in the process. “It’s much better than having 22 square miles of unused vacant buildable land, as we have now, or even more underused land with mostly vacant 4-5 story tenements, like we have in so much of the city. There are many buildings with only a commercial tenant on the first floor and no residents at all on the top floors – the commercial tenant’s property taxes are enough to pay the meager tax bill for the whole property!”
Real estate agents are also well aware of homeowners’ contention with property tax rates. “Many people are complaining that their property taxes are not correspondent with the actual market value of their home. And many homeowners have contacted Councilman Ulrich on the issue,” said a realtor at Neponsit Realty.
Councilman Eric Ulrich was contacted for comment on this story, but is in Tampa this week for the Republican convention and was not available for comment.