CLEVELAND — Members of the Cleveland's Lincoln Heights Block Club had their concerns over gentrification rekindled, following a recent study released by the city, holding the cities current tax abatement policy.
Since 2004, Cleveland has made available 15-year, 100% tax abatement on new home construction and residential developments, a policy some long-time homeowners in the Tremont and Ohio City neighborhoods believe have forced dozens of residents out of their homes to dramatically increasing property values and property taxes.
Lincoln Heights Block Club Chairperson Henry Senyak told News 5 he understands the new tax abatement study recommends some relief, calling for an abatement reduction from 15-years to 5-years in neighborhoods where property values, taxes, and homeowner displacement have reached a certain rate.
But he believes that won't be enough to protect long-time homeowners on fixed incomes.
Senyak is hoping Cleveland city council members will live up to their promise to rally local state lawmakers in passing legislation that will allow the city to adopt a Longtime Owner Occupant Program, or "LOOP Legislation," similar to what's been enacted in Philadelphia and other cities.
The program places a freeze, or limit on, how much a longtime homeowner's property taxes can increase year to year if that property owner meets certain income requirements.
“The majority of the council members want it to stay status quo and renew the current tax abatement structure as is, that’s not acceptable,” Senyak said.
“Some homeowners owe one or two years of taxes because they can’t afford it. They then try to set up a payment plan, next thing you know the city comes out with inspectors and gives them violations.”
“The only thing that is going to be a saving grace for people who own these properties behind us is some level of control that then keeps their taxes as-is for the next ten years.”
"People want to stay in this neighborhood, they like this neighborhood, so why should they move, and so why should their property taxes go up 300 to 400%.”
Cleveland Councilman Tony Bracantelli said the study indicated tax abatement was the root cause of homeowner displacement in only about 2% of city neighborhoods.
However, Brancatelli agrees "Loop Legislation" is needed to protect residents while the city continues to use tax abatement as a crucial development tool.
"I think the study was a great starting point,” Brancatelli said.
“Tax abatement is an important tool, and we shouldn’t lose tax abatement as a tool for creating development.”
"But I understand, if you’ve been living in that $20,000, $30,000 house for 20 years and the next thing you know you’re getting assessed at $100,000 and your taxes are tripling."
"That’s big and your income hasn’t gone up.”
Brancatelli pledged to have state lawmakers on-board to allow LOOP legislation, before city council votes on a new city abatement plan at the beginning of 2021.
Read the full study here.