Property tax punch: Raleigh homeowners seek relief from effects of gentrification

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For many years. Raleigh's East College Park neighborhood was historically Black and an affordable place to live for low-income residents. It looks and feels dramatically different than it did just a decade ago: New homes, new neighbors with a lot of investment coming from the city and local nonprofits in a concerted effort to keep this an affordable community. Even so, the headwinds of Wake County's booming real estate market have some feeling pushed out.

It's been three years since Wanda Hunter and her three children moved in to their brand new home in College Park. She's a Raleigh native who said our peaceful stroll down Maple Street would have felt much different 10 years ago.

"We wouldn't be out here filming right now," Hunter told ABC11. "The reputation of this particular neighborhood was not good. It was crime-ridden. A lot of drug activity."

Now, Maple Street and its surrounding blocks are a steady buzz of home construction with a steady stream of new residents.

In 2017, Hunter's family became one of the first to take advantage of the city of Raleigh's new Homebuyer Assistance Program. -- a chance for renters to become first-time homebuyers.

At first, Hunter says she wasn't sold. But, she soon bought in to the American dream.

"When I learned about the equity and how purchasing the house would turn into so much equity, then it made me think about my kids and generational wealth," she said.

Her mortgage was affordable. She said her property tax bill was, too until Wake County's new home valuations. With the neighborhood radically transforming, so did Hunter's $200-a month property tax bill.

"I looked into the details of the billing and I looked at the prior billing and it was the property taxes which had like doubled," Hunter said. "And I was like oh, OK."



It all adds up to one more side effect of Wake's real estate boom: Huge demand with not enough supply and prices soaring as a result.

The biggest demand is for homes less than $250,000 -- which saw a 31% increase in property tax value. New homeowners like Hunter wondering where it all leaves her.

"Basically our property taxes have gone up because of gentrification. And what it's doing is pricing people out like me, when it was supposed to be an opportunity," Hunter said.

It's an issue that's on the radar at the city and county level. Back in November, Raleigh City Council directed city staff to collaborate with county staff on new property tax relief measures for long-time or low-income residents in neighborhoods where rates were rising disproportionately fast.

As of Monday afternoon, a city spokesperson says those meetings have yet to get underway.
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