By Bill Oakey – July 17, 2014
Today I got an email that really hammers home the critical problems with Austin affordable housing. An independent builder, Eric Femrite, has been hit with high property tax appraisals that will prevent him from being able to assist the low-income renters on two of his properties. Mr. Femrite is a dedicated affordable housing advocate.
With ten years of experience in the field, he is the very type of person that our leaders should be encouraging in every way possible. Instead, we find that his efforts to fight gentrification and continue offering affordable housing have been thwarted. In addition to the tax appraisal issue, he explained that there is much room for improvement in how funds from local affordable housing bonds are administered.
With an eye toward focusing public attention on this problem and the need for reform, I have obtained Mr. Femrite’s permission to post the letter that he has written to the Austin City Council. The City Council may not be able to directly help in lowering his tax appraisals, but his dilemma should bring a new awareness of how important it is to fight for affordable housing, combat gentrification, and fix the tax appraisal inequities. Regardless of how tough the challenges are, we must keep pushing for better solutions.
Here is the letter:
Hello Mayor and Council Members,
I am seeking your assistance. I am a landlord and provide affordable housing for a living. I currently have 21 houses, all with families below the median income level. I am in the process of appealing my property taxes this year, and have hired a firm to protest them for me. Unfortunately some of the properties taxes have almost doubled. I originally built these homes under the Affordable Housing Program / SMART Housing. Two properties in question are1806 Perez St and 1808 Perez St went from a value of $228,000 up to $352,000.
There is no way I can cover these tax increases and continue to keep the rent affordable. One of the families on Perez was a Hurricane Katrina Evacuee family. They lost everything when Katrina hit New Orleans. They have started a new life in Austin. I am proud to provide them an affordable home to live in. Travis Central Appraisal District and their tax increases are going to force me to tell these families they have to move, as they have been gentrified. Please help me in my appeal to continue to provide Affordable Housing to these families.
The property at 1806 Perez St, Austin, TX 78721 already had its value reduced for 2014 to $336,000. I have called TCAD to try to get this case reopened. I have found they used incorrect comps in determining the value, and would like to appeal the case. They told me no. Could you help in getting this case re-opened?
I want to continue to provide Affordable Housing in Austin, as I know this is a main objective of the City Council as well.
Thank you for you assistance. Please contact me.
The next council will have the opportunity to make the tax rates more equitable by increasing the commercial tax assessments. This won’t likely lower anyones taxes, but it could keep them from going up so fast. Hopefully the citizens will recognize the extreme expense of the urban rail proposal the current council passed and vote it down.