Raleigh residents keep pushing for property tax relief

More than 100 Raleigh residents turned out for the Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday to ask officials for relief from skyrocketing property taxes.

The cohort were all members of ONE Wake, a grassroots community group calling for a program that provides payments to people who have owned their homes for at least 10 years and earn less than 80% of the region’s median income. The program would cover all property taxes that exceed 2% of eligible homeowners’ annual income.

This goes much further than existing relief programs, which limit assistance based on both income level and age, disability or veteran status. In a discussion last month, some commissioners seemed reluctant to commit to a tax subsidy program, which would provide the kind of direct assistance that ONE Wake is asking for. Commissioners have asked staff to explore other options to keep housing affordable, such as creating a community land trust, a homeowner’s care fund or a foreclosure prevention fund.

Many residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting reflected in detail on their situation, describing how existing programs are not helping them. Leslie Fox, who (for now) lives on Haynes Street in Raleigh, explained how ill health cut short her career in 2012, leaving her with a house whose expenses exceeded her income.

Fox was “livid” when she found out she was ineligible for the state’s existing relief program because of her disability benefits, she said. Without a disability, her taxable income is $8,500 per year.

“I had to rent out part of my house to take care of my house and stay in my house, and in the meantime my property taxes skyrocketed,” she said. “There will be no way I can stay there without property tax relief. I expect my property taxes to go up, probably $3,000 more with the next assessment.”

Elaine Peebles-Brown, fourth-generation Wake County resident and leading advocate for ONE Wake, shared how she wants to keep her home in the family.

“My granddaughter would love to move here from Maryland and pursue her career in education. She would be the sixth generation of the Peebles family. But rising property taxes are making it extremely difficult,” Peebles-Brown said.

She added that she would be happy to work with the commissioners to help “create a solution” that works for everyone.

ONE Wake members were upbeat and positive as they spoke to the commissioners, explaining how they wanted to bring the community together and support their neighbors. So far, the commissioners seem willing to work with them.

Also on Monday, the council voted unanimously to rename the Village District Public Library South of Wade Avenue again, the largest in the county.

Commissioners changed the name of the Village Regional Library to “Oberlin Regional Library,” taking another step toward racial equity.

Most people know the library by its old name, Cameron Village Library. The name of the mall and library was changed last year after it emerged the Cameron family for whom the center was named owned slaves.

Cameron Village has been renamed simply “The Village”, a name that is innocuous at best and meaningless at worst. At the time, some North Carolina residents wondered why the mall’s owners hadn’t taken the opportunity to recognize the nearby village of Oberlin, a historic black community.

The village of Oberlin was founded in the late 1860s when former slaves, freed during or after the Civil War, settled there. It quickly grew into a thriving African-American community that is now home to some of the oldest homes and churches in the area.

Now, library staff will develop an exhibit inside the institution to educate visitors about the history of the village of Oberlin and why the library’s name was changed, according to a news release.

“By honoring this community and the people who lived there, we recognize and celebrate a very important part of Wake County’s rich history,” Commissioner Matt Calabria said in the statement.

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