In the upcoming May issue of Habitat, we’ll take you inside the looming battle to reform New York City’s archaic, arcane, and inequitable property tax system. Among the highlights are a lawsuit by an unlikely coalition called Tax Equity Now New York, which argues, among other things, that the current system discriminates against minorities. There are also comments from Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, who speaks forcefully in favor of preserving tax abatements for co-ops and condos – and just as forcefully against “piecemeal” repairs to a broken system.
Now Corey Johnson, speaker of the city council, has proposed what might be considered just such a piecemeal solution: a $400 tax rebate for “middle-class” owners of houses, co-ops and condos – those who earn less than $150,000 a year.
“We have a broken property-tax system, one that favors some homeowners over others,” Johnson tells Crain’s. “But [a comprehensive reform] won’t happen overnight. So I’m proud our budget response includes relief in the meantime.”
Johnson’s tax rebate proposal comes in response to the preliminary $88.7 billion budget proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who promised to tackle comprehensive property tax reform during his first campaign in 2013, then repeated the promise during his re-election campaign last year.
Johnson has also proposed that the mayor and the council appoint experts to a property-tax commission, which would find ways to avoid “a big hit to the city’s finances.” Should de Blasio not accede in negotiations this spring, the speaker left open the possibility of forcing the issue through legislative action.
“We might not be able to make it as equal as we’d like,” Johnson says. “But it is so unequal right now, we need to make it more fair, and we hope that’s not just on the margins. I hope we don’t have to do legislation – we hope the mayor will do it with us. But we’re open to doing it. And we think the commission needs to be a relationship between the both of us.”
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