In Rochester Heights, a historically Black neighborhood in Southeast Raleigh, property taxes have more than doubled for some homeowners — their expenses rapidly increasing as gentrification takes hold.
Those same homeowners are now lobbying the Wake County Board of Commissioners to create a grant program that would offer relief from tax bills, similar to the ones recently put in place by Mecklenburg and Durham counties. ONE Wake...is calling for a program that offers payments to people who have owned their homes for at least 10 years and earn less than 80 percent of area median income. The program would cover any and all property taxes that exceed 2 percent of qualifying homeowners' annual income....
"When you look in Southeast Raleigh, [said Rev. Jemonde Taylor, the rector at Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church], these were areas where Black people were forced to live. Now that these areas are desirable, property taxes are increasing... We have to take history into account. Raleigh and Wake County purport equity. So the question is, what is the equitable thing to do?"
The day after ONE Wake's rally (which drew 100 One Wake leaders and residents), County Commissioners instructed the Manager to create a property tax assistance plan that more closely responds to ONE Wake's proposal. While there was limited detail about other available options, ONE Wake expressed concern that the formation of a Community Land Trust would not preserve home ownership and generational wealth.
[Photos: (top) Rev. Jemonde Taylor explains the proposed relief plan at ONE Wake Property Tax Rally, St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, credit: ONE Wake Facebook video; (right) ONE Wake leaders at Rally]
Wake County Commissioners Talk Property Tax Relief, INDY Week [pdf]
Washington Post Profiles Nehemiah Strategy as 'Revitalization Without Gentrification'
This summer, United Power for Action & Justice (UPAJ) secured $27.6 Million in commitments and land towards the building of 2,000 Nehemiah Homes on vacant lots controlled by the city in severely blighted areas on the city's south and west sides as part of its Reclaiming Chicago campaign. In a press conference with Mayor Lightfoot, Illinois Senate President Harmon and other local officials and allies, UPAJ announced the following advances:
1) Chicago Mayor Lightfoot's commitment of the first 250 city-owned vacant lots (the first of 1,000) in North Lawndale and $5.3 million in TIF funds for site remediation from the city of Chicago;
2) $12.25 million from private investors (e.g. banks, wealthy individuals, and family foundations) towards a 0%, 5-year revolving construction loan fund to build homes at scale. UPAJ's goal is to secure $25 million in funding to allow for the construction of 100 Nehemiah homes at a time.
3) $10 million line item in the Illinois State Budget for grant funds for homebuyer subsidies. This is enough to assist approximately 300 new homebuyers in purchasing 300 new constructed homes.
UPAJ's Reclaiming Chicago campaign is modeled on the Metro IAF Nehemiah Housing strategy which has built more than 6,500 homes for first-time home-buyers, creating over $2 Billion in wealth and with a foreclosure rate of less than 1% in New York, Jersey City, Baltimore, Chicago, Prince George's County, Philadelphia, Memphis and Washington DC. This strategy was recently profiled by the Washington Post:
IAF [was] instrumental in one of the most successful experiments in affordable housing.
In the early 1980s, New York City Mayor Ed Koch agreed to sell 16-square miles of abandoned lots in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood to a group of local churches for $1 per lot. The city also offered $10,000 deferred payment loans to perspective [sic] home buyers. Around 1,250 homes were initially constructed with prices starting as low as $50,000. The project — called Nehemiah homes — created a critical mass of development and equity in the neighborhood that continues today.
More than 4,500 Nehemiah homes have been built since the 1980s in the New York City area, generating more than a billion dollars in total homeowner equity, according to the developers. The project has a less than 1 percent foreclosure rate, and a study conducted by Nehemiah found that children who grew up in the development earned 53 percent higher wages than their parents.
[In top photo: Kevin Sutton, North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council and UPAJ leader. In photo at right, new affordable housing in North Lawndale neighborhood. Credit: Joshua Lott, Washington Post]
A New Model for Affordable Housing, Washington Post Reports [podcast]