ND Property-Tax Hikes Burden Older, Low-Income Homeowners

Mike Moen
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

HORACE, N.D. - Some North Dakota cities are adding more residents and new homes, but there's a side effect: higher property taxes. Low-income homeowners are being reminded of a key tool that could soften the blow.

Horace, just south of Fargo, has seen its population jump by more than 30% over the past decade. Along the way, Mayor Kory Peterson said, they've added hundreds of homes, prompting more infrastructure needs. On top of that, a community-wide valuation has pushed property taxes higher by an average of 29%.

"We still have people in town here that are on fixed income; that's an awful lot of a tax increase to swallow in one year," he said. "So, we have to be cognizant of that when have all this infrastructure that's going on in town here, too, because you don't want to tax residents out of their homes."

North Dakota does have the homestead property tax credit, which is available to people 65 and older with an annual income of less than $42,000. They can apply for the credit through the local assessor's office, with a deadline of Feb. 1.

In his city, Peterson said, a number of homeowners have incomes just above the cutoff. He thinks policymakers should expand eligibility.

Janelle Moos, AARP North Dakota's advocacy director, said any other homeowner around the state struggling with higher property taxes also should look into applying. For older residents, she said, a bigger tax bill shouldn't be the thing that pushes them out of a home with which they have a long history.

"Not only do they want to be there," she said, "but smaller communities want to keep residents there, and keep their towns alive and thriving."

The recent AARP Home and Community Preferences Survey found that nearly 75% of respondents age 50 and older would like to stay in their current home for as long as possible. Beyond the tax credit, Moos urged concerned homeowners to reach out to their elected officials to create other solutions.