Edith Macefield stayed in her home

The Seattle Times editorial board recently performed a rare bit of service journalism:

Fortunately, limited-income seniors, disabled homeowners and veterans are getting a break, with a more generous property-tax exemption taking effect this year. This change is past due and needs to be communicated broadly, so everyone eligible is aware of the opportunity.

This is happening because of a legislative change last year. Instead of a fixed $40,000 income limit for participants, the program is now indexed to counties’ median income every five years. If median incomes rise, more people will be eligible for tax exemptions.

In King County, this raised the threshold to $58,423 this year. Income limits are rising in 13 of the state’s 39 counties. In Snohomish County, the level is now $55,473, in Pierce it’s $45,708 and Kitsap’s is $48,574. Seniors are defined as those 61 and older.

The changes increased the number of eligible property owners in King County from an estimated 37,000 to around 80,000. Yet only 16,000 currently take advantage of the program.

In other words, only 20% of eligible seniors, disabled homeowners and veterans are getting tax breaks available to them

Taxing property is the closest thing we have to a wealth tax in the U.S. unless or until Sen. Warren gets her way. More property taxes and fewer sales taxes would make Washington State’s tax mix more progressive. As a bonus, it turns out that land taxes are another way to encourage efficient use of a limited resource and help create walkable communities.

And yet, the proverbial fixed-income senior is often used as an argument against raising property taxes. Few people I speak with about this are aware that the exemption exists, let alone that it’s increased. So let’s get the word out, especially now that people may be more income constrained due to the coronavirus-induced recession.

49 Replies to “Property tax exemptions”

  1. I have mixed feelings about senior property tax exemptions. On the one hand, nobody wants elderly people to be forced into homelessness because they can’t pay their property taxes.

    On the other hand, is it really necessary for elderly people to live in the *same* home that they’ve been living in for the past 30 years, rather than downsize to something smaller (and cheaper), given that their kids are all grown up and moved out? I’m imagining a whole bunch of single-family homes in premium neighborhoods like Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, worth $1.5 million each, and the property tax exemption encouraging people to just stay there out of inertia, in the process, gumming up the housing market for everybody else. Even without a property tax exemption, someone with $1.5 in real estate isn’t going to be homeless. They’ll just sell the place, use the proceeds to buy something smaller and cheaper, and have plenty of money leftover. Remember, Seattle home prices were way, way cheaper 30 years ago, so the typical senior single-family homeowner in Seattle has probably made a killing already on appreciation, and may not need an additional tax subsidy.

    One way to address the above concerns would be for the tax exemption criteria to include a test of wealth, rather than just income, and/or give greater exemption allowances for those with dependent children still living in the home.

    1. You can think of the process of allocating land as a carrot-and-stick process: the stick is the property tax, and the carrot is the windfall from selling the property and moving somewhere cheaper. So we are not using the stick, but the carrot is still in use.

      If you take a look around at existing development in comparison to what is actually allowed with current zoning… for almost all of the $1+ million houses in Capitol Hill and Queen Anne, it is not legal to knock them down and build apartments. Zoning is still the primary constraint.

    2. There’s a bit of a flaw in your logic I think. Where are these cheaper affordable homes you’re proposing seniors downsize to? So, their $1.5M home goes on the market. Check. The higher income earners and higher net worth individuals now have an increased inventory to purchase from. But now you have added demand on the existing affordable home inventory as well, thereby exacerbating the problem we currently have in that marketplace, correct?

      Of course the real solution is building a whole lot more affordable housing, including family-size suitable units, to stabilize our region’s escalating housing costs.

      1. Don’t forget the NIMBY’s who will throw a fit at the mere suggestion of denser development in their slice of paradise.

      2. The cheaper, affordable homes for seniors are in the same places they’ve always been: condos or senior living communities (those don’t cost $1.5 mil), rural areas, or Arizona/states that cater to retirees.

      3. Condos in general are a lot cheaper than houses. Pick any neighborhood and that is the case. If you sell your house for 1.5 million, the world (or at least the greater Puget Sound) is your oyster. There are literally hundreds of places that are under $750,000 right now in Seattle proper. There are more places under that price than over.

        But most houses don’t sell for $ 1.5 million. Median prices is about $700K. Again, there are a ton of places for half that, in just about every neighborhood in Seattle (although oddly enough, not many in the C. D. or Rainier Valley).

    3. Yeah, the big problem is definitely single-family zoning restrictions. Allowing more development in single-family areas would indeed help a lot.

      Still though, even if the zoning restrictions were lifted, property tax exemptions would still gum up the market. It leads to a lot of people that have no reason to bother selling until they die. Even without zoning restrictions, a family with children in a single-family house is still more density than one or two people living in the same home by themselves.

      “Where are these cheaper affordable homes you’re proposing seniors downsize to?” Most likely, they’d move outward into one of the suburbs. If you’re retired and don’t need to commute, there’s less point in paying the premium for a shorter commute.

      1. From my experience with elderly family members, continuity is a pretty important consideration. They have ties to the community where they have lived for 30 years: friends up and down the street (who can buy them groceries when snow hits or they get sick or a viral pandemic happens); they have medical support in the same staff they have seen for 30 years; they go to libraries and bookstores and senior centers and other social events; they have friends at local grocery stores and restaurants. Even for someone like me, who is about not in that age category, moving from one city to another has been a rather major uprooting, and not one altogether beneficial.

        None of this is to say that people cannot do it, but we should not underestimate the cost, especially as it is difficult to quantify as a dollar amount. But, as a social policy, I think that allowing people to “age in place” is a much more desirable option than encouraging people to “get out of the way so the youth can have their shot at greatness”.

      2. “Where are these cheaper affordable homes you’re proposing seniors downsize to?”

        A lot of seniors have no interest in a house. They aren’t raising kids, so they don’t need all that space. Taking care of a yard is hard on the back, and they don’t feel like paying someone to take care of it. They are fine with a condo.

        Others really like puttering around in a yard, but don’t want a big one. My mom was like that. She bought a skinny house, back in the day. I think a lot of people would like to buy a townhouse, with a small yard, and places they can walk to. Older folks really don’t like to drive (for good reason). They often want to be around people, especially kids, since they don’t have them at home anymore.

        The assumption that we are building what people want ignores the fact that we limit what can be built. I can buy up an apartment complex, duplex, or set of townhouses and convert any one to a big house. But I can’t do the opposite in the vast majority of land around here. What exists is what is allowed, not what people want.

    4. The problem of that logic is that property taxes really hammer seniors & disabled who don’t have that kinda $1.5 million Seattle home.

      But I agree with a wealthy test alongside greater exemption allowances for those with dependent children still living in the home.

    5. @asdf:

      Sometime in the future you will become a senior citizen and I am sure that you will be singing a different tune when some young person suggests that you sell your home that you have lived in for years because by not doing so you are gumming up the housing market.

      I have lived in my home for over 40 years and you are suggesting that I sell it and buy something cheaper. If you are suggesting this would you be so kind and tell me and other senior citizens where in the Seattle area we can buy another home that is cheaper.

      I like where I am living. I know my neighbors and we are there to help each other when needed. Everything I need is close by and convenient.

      Yes the value of my home has gone up over the years but that doesn’t mean I am rolling in the money and far from it and selling it is not going to create wealth for me. And yes I have applied for the property tax exemption because at my age and being on a fixed income saving every dollar helps. By the way my income stays the same but my expenses keep going up every year so I have less money to spend.

      Like I said you will become a senior citizen sometime and when you do you will find out what it is like and it is not a pretty picture.

      1. Main reason “The Market Economy” needs decent regulation: It’s because without it, main question becomes not “Are you the buyer or the seller”, but rather, “Are you the poor creature hanging on the hook?”

        Mark Dublin

      2. Thank You. This person think we should step aside be ause we are seniors. Ageism is alive and well.

      3. Thank you for your comment
        I am appalled at these posts. The senior exemptions are according to income. I own condo a.nd worked hard to maintain it at my low salary level throughout years. I have earned my Senior exemption!

    6. Your suggestion that it isn’t necessary that they stay in their home for 30 years and moved to something smaller is totally ignorant and absurd. I think a senior has earned their right to live and do whatever they want since they only have a few years to do so.

  2. I think more seniors are worried about someday having to pay for expensive monthly assisted living (at $25K to $75K annually in cost) than get about $500 off annually on their property tax bill. It’s a sweet gesture to add what appears to be $150-$200 annually back in additional property tax credits with the new calculation method, but I can’t help but wonder if it reaches those seniors with the greatest financial need. After all, the additional property tax credit is about as much annual savings as going to smaller garbage cans would provide in the City of Seattle.

    1. I agree with all of your points.

      This country is about to be hit with a huge wave of folks in my generation, the boomers, who will be suffering from memory and cognitive functioning impairments and we are ill-prepared for it on all fronts. The costs for long-term care at a decent facility are enormous and can easily burn though a senior’s savings and assets in short order. Few people today buy long-term care insurance and even for those individuals who can/could afford to purchase such coverage these policies have limits. Many, many individuals are forced to go with the Medicaid spend-down strategy and transfer of their limited assets to qualify for assistance from the program. Even then, finding a quality facility that is within their means can be a daunting challenge if not near impossible. I saw this firsthand with my own father who lived the last five years of his life in a very basic nursing home as a long-term Alzheimer’s patient. For both my 90+ year-old mom in NY and my 80+ year-old mother-in-law here in Seattle we have prepared their estates with future Medicaid assistance in mind.

      This is the tsunami headed for the US.

      A primer for those not familiar with the subject of the limited number of “Medicaid beds” in our country can be found here:

      https://www.medicaidplanningassistance.org/medicaid-and-nursing-homes/

      One excerpt:
      “In 2019, the nationwide average private payer paid $247 per day for nursing home care while Medicaid paid approximately $203 per day.”

      Annualized, that’s over $90,000 for the former and $74,000 for the latter.

      1. Tlsgwm, careful about the “Boom-Bomb” stereotype. STB [AH’d] somebody for that last week. No insult to me. For generationality, in July ’45, lot of the reverberations were still artillery.

        From his first sight of me in 1948 when I was 3, my younger brother took a razor-strap and a whetstone to his own intellect to see to it that the world survives me.

        But to keep my own lunch down, I won’t describe what food safety laws will do to a caterer with a business plan on the order of our political system, for my whole voting life.

        From their own respective bedsides, I watched my parents both die furious with the cruel, stupid, power-hungry monster our country had become since their generation helped the world win the Second World War for it. Talking, understand, years before 2016 clinched the deal we’ve now been dealt, Which would’ve been grounds for murder in any Dodge City poker game.

        To both my parents, “Progressive” meant Robert LaFollett’s Republicans, largely responsible for cleaning up the civil service. “Moderate” meant same thing as our Founding document’s title of “Common Sense.” Second Amendment, ditto in spades.

        Other hackneyed PolarOpposites? With “Cooperative” being more a general business and governmental model than a grocery store, Dad more than once frowningly cautioned me that “The more liberal your goal is, the more conservative your books had better be.”

        So with their permission, couple thoughts for Joe Biden. Kaiser Permanente? Co-pays get co-paid in really progressive (in Bob La Follette’s phrase) taxes. If people also want Group Health back, no reason health care can’t be healthily competitive. I miss Qliance in Seattle.

        Underlaid with a public education system whose graduation requirements include proven ability to serve democratically in a republic where hands-on citizen participation shares same nerves as breathing. Vice President?

        Since she’ll be Commander in Chief of the Senate, also good to have a VP who’s proved she can handle bankers.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Al S.

      If one knew what goes on in some assisted living facilities, you would never put your parents anyplace near them. Often short staffed with minimally trained CNA’s & run on a shoe string budget, the whole system is designed to give minimal care at the highest degree of profit.

      Based on that, it’s no wonder many seniors rather stay put in their home & receive services that way if they need them. Plus they can transfer the home to children in their will as a gift if they so choose.

  3. “Few people I speak with about this are aware that the exemption exists.”

    Really? That’s interesting. Perhaps that reflects more on your own age group and circle of friends, peers, coworkers, etc.? As a non-qualifying “senior” myself I would have to say that my experience has been just the opposite; the great majority of my social contacts are aware of the low income exemption. However, of those that also share the distinction of the title of senior, I know of only one solo individual who has qualified for the exemption in the past. That could certainly change under the new indexing strategy of course.

    This is a great improvement. My only quibble is the 5-year time timeframe built into the indexing.

    Well done STimes.

    1. “Few people I speak with about this are aware that the exemption exists.”

      Really? That’s interesting. Perhaps that reflects more on your own age group and circle of friends, peers, coworkers, etc.?

      No, it reflects on what was written in the paper (“only 20% of eligible seniors, disabled homeowners and veterans are getting tax breaks available to them.”)

      1. Nonsense. The comment was a personal observation. It may tend to agree with what the data shows, but that’s not what the assertion made was. I suggest you reread what was actually written by the OP.

        Anyway, the point was that my OWN anecdotal experience has been quite the opposite from the OP’s and I was just wondering if that was perhaps more of a generational thing. Most of the people in my own social sphere who pay property taxes ARE aware of this exemption. Since many of the folks who are eligible apparently either don’t know about or don’t want to bother to apply for the exemption (as the data actually indicates but we really don’t know how much of each group), I was happy to see the ST piece published nevertheless.

  4. It’s a reduction, not an exemption. Churches pay nothing. They get a property tax exemption. Old people get to pay less. They get a property tax reduction.

    1. That’s not how it works in Washington State. Any reduction in property tax is an exemption. The calculations exempt a certain amount of value from various taxes. One exemption might exempt $50,000 from local but not state taxes. Another exemption might exempt 50% of assessed value from state by not local. There are quite a few exemptions and each have a different rule of how they are calculated.

      In my previous job I programmed the rules for making them work in most of the larger counties in the state. This particular senior rule was one of the last things I did in that job.

  5. Since I can’t even take the Route 40 to the Ballard Locks anymore, and Ballard Station location still under debate, I’d be more than willing to give a tax-plundered billionaire who Always Always Always wanted one (call it the Please Please Please Please Please declaration) a retired aircraft carrier to refurbish into a yacht. On one condition.

    That they help me get the “Citizens United” decision, which legalizes unlimited secret political donations, reversed. I’ll gladly give Jay Inslee the right to take credit for an air quality measure. Because, in what could be Evolution’s most effective animal survival mechanism, what we can’t see in the dark, we can most certainly smell.

    Been told that sense of scent decreases with age. Too bad that since that Decision came down, this claim’s been DFN. Double-Fake News.

    Mark Dublin

  6. It is also worth mentioning that property tax exemptions is just one of many government programs whose effect is to transfer money from the young to the old. Social security and Medicare are probably the biggest examples of this at the federal level.

    A big reason why seniors get sweet deals across all levels of government is that seniors vote, young people don’t, and everyone knows it, so any politician that ignores the interests of seniors does so at their peril. That is why even George W. Bush, a Republican, pushed to increase prescription drug benefits under Medicare.

    Only recently have politicians seriously advocated allowing young people to get in on some of the old-people benefits. For example, Bernie Sanders advocated Medicare for all while Andrew Yang’s UBI is effectively Social Security for all. But, those efforts quickly fizzled because, at the end of the day, young people don’t vote.

    1. Luckily, asdf2, there’s a remedy I really think is on its launching block between the ears of a lot of transit’s (former) youth-fare passengers. Covid-19 and all, we could have perfect example of the positive delivery capacity of Life’s Ill-est Wind.

      You-Tube engine-building videos and all, in addition to politics, actual running of a government is well within the internet’s capacity to teach. And more important, inspire. Am I right those tail-lights ahead of me are the violent Far Right? Not at all to say that The Road’s Theirs. Whatever our ages, those of us not their friends, by temperament and choice, we’re still the better drivers.

      Leadership not preceded by “Lack-Of?” Not a coating to spray on, but a tool to pick up, learn to operate, and use. Thousands of people at the exact age- and in the exact life and family situation- where radicals are formed, and not only in chemistry and math.

      Who. Are. Not. Allowed. To. Go. To. School. Or. Forced. To. Correct. Papers. And even got a platform you don’t have to do YouTube to use. You want “Pro-Youth-Permanent?” District through State to National, Re-Tool Our Schools like this:

      Curriculum shift to leave calculus for Lake Washington Tech machine shop – tuition-free Route 236- 15′ headways- and concentrate from Kindergarten on skills and habits of administering and governing.

      Have mentioned my universal National Service plan for three years’ blanket basic military induction on graduating high school. As, Age-of-Reason-wise, Second Amendment drafters intended. Ending with start of career in civil service. Been done in Scandinavia.

      Bet me we’d have to forcibly conscript zero. And dead-in-the-crosshairs-right-on-target intro campaign? Student sponsored possession-proved program of glow-in-the-dark ORCA cards with a gold eagle on one side and to ensure overdue universal respect, a US flag on the other. Like the whole program, badge of system ownership, not submission.

      All yours, asdf2. Generations past and following, we’ll be proud of you.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Indeed asdf2,

      A big reason why seniors get sweet deals across all levels of government is that seniors vote, young people don’t, and everyone knows it, so any politician that ignores the interests of seniors does so at their peril. That is why even George W. Bush, a Republican, pushed to increase prescription drug benefits under Medicare.

      Which also explains why Sound Transit will only go to the voters in a presidential election year. Youth won’t make the time to learn & vote in off-year elections short of a crisis such as big money PACs trying to buy my acquaintances & friend running for Seattle City Council. Youth should vote every election because it’s the young who will inherit climate change, housing unaffordability, regressive taxes and inadequate public transit. The seniors get their neighborhood character, Eyman initiatives and road dreams…

      I’ve said enough.

      1. Joe, what’s getting at me is the way the assumption of this country’s educational system that it’s got no responsibility to teach every one of our citizens to run the Government, at all levels, that our Founders bequeathed them.

        Ok, like everything else in their thinking from the 1600’s to 2020 and counting, fair number of Founders really meant citizens who were also rich men of Northern European extraction.

        Even though anybody with an education was familiar with the example of the play “Lysistrata”, wherein a country’s entire female electorate withheld something in justifiably short supply ’til their men ended a war pretty much like all our last four or five.

        Exactly like making a living and if so inclined, raising a family, our whole electorate needs to turn 18 knowing without thinking about it that they’re also in charge of their government. Though considering the intensity of the times, might be better if we copied Scotland the last time the issue came up and put the vote at 16. Age, I think where you can also be executed.

        Giving all our transit from ST to every conceivable city and county the incentive to schedule its every vote with this last fact in mind.

        Mark Dublin

      2. It’s an increasingly important question, why don’t young people vote? Polls show millenials and younger are significantly more concerned about climate change, economic inequality, and social inequality than their elders, but they don’t vote. Thus they let other people with the opposite views shape policy. The result is inaction, rising inequality, and poverty.

        My current thought is that those who grew up between the Depression and at least the Reagan era were instilled with a sense of responsibility to vote and enough civics to understand the structure of government. Sometime between Bush I and Obama that broke down. I’m not sure when or why. It could be bad education, no education (the stresses of inequality, or cramming so many social goals into the curricula that the basics get lost), or the cumulative effect of government lies (Vietnam, Iran-Contra, the Iraq war, Trumpism). A common complaint is that voting won’t change things anyway because the powerful are too powerful. Yes, but if all the people who believe that voted with those who are trying to improve things, they would be the overwhelming majority and would be able to get things done.

      3. The 70s was when the social contract started to break down and the wealth was redirected to the 1%. Still, I don’t see how losing the ability to get ahead would transilate into not voting, so I’ m not sure how they releate to each other. Maybe losing the American Dream translates into giving up on the democratic project and thus on voting? Still, that sounds too simple. The opposite would be just as likely: rising anger leading to more voting. Yet non-voting happened.

      4. Gee I wonder if it has anything to do with the massive vote-suppression operations both parties engage in with gusto to keep elected officials completely subservient to corporate interests and toeing the neoliberal line, or maybe how for millions of people it’s impossible to get enough time off to vote with how many polling site closures are happening and how little employers allow you time off to vote, if they don’t just tell you to do it before/after your shift. When the wait to vote is over 3 hours long and you have to be at work in 2 hours or you’re fired, you don’t have a meaningful ‘right’ to vote.

      5. Thanks Mike Orr, I generally share those concerns.

        As to you and yes Ness: I do think people need to wake up and grow up and realize sometimes there is bad (e.g. Hillary) and worse (Trump). That we may want at some point in the near future preferential voting or ranked choice voting. Australia seems to be a good elections system to model ours on – paper balloting, voting ending on a Saturday both at the ballot box and an absentee option to apply for, realistic “third party” options, and more.

        One thing that Democrats should be doing in states that don’t have 100% vote-by-mail is encouraging everyone to apply to postal vote/vote absentee. Especially low wage workers. Period. Enough already. Most if not all of the 2004-2005 elections fiasco in Washington State was because of the mismanagement of Dean C. Logan’s King County Elections and the election was too close to call – not postal voting.

        Sorry mods this went far off the track of transit, but I feel this needed to be said. Respectfully.

      6. Young-voter turnout is low in all states including those that have all-mail voting and unrestrictive/inclusive policies.

  7. In the name of equity and compassion, there should be a property tax moratorium during the coronavirus crisis.

    Sam. Humanitarian.

    1. Then, who pays for the services that property taxes fund? Do we just have no police, no fire department, no hospitals?

      Granted, a lot of the property tax is paying for schools and schools are closed, but assuming the teachers are still being paid for remote learning, that money has to come from somewhere. And the school buildings still have to be maintained in order for schools to reopen.

      The county does not have a $1 billion reserve fund lying around to allow it to just suspend property taxes for 12-18 months.

      1. Then you’re against rent moratoriums? Using your logic, how will the landlord buy groceries for his family that the rent checks fund? As long as you’re consistent, I can respect that.

      2. I think we’re looking at a situation where the state legislature has to run a deficit for a while to prevent a depression.

  8. In addition to progressiveness and land use incentives, a third key benefit to property taxes in Washington is they are roughly counter-cyclical. For most property levies, the levy is a total dollar amount, and as property values go up and down the allocation of the levy to individual properties change but the total collected does not, aside from a (usually minor) annual % increase.

    Aside from Keynesian benefits, counter-cyclicality is super helpful because it allows government to fund critical services – schools, safety, health, etc – with a funding source that doesn’t ebb & flow with the economy. There are good reasons to use other taxes in the toolkit, but for “baseline’ government services, the property tax is well suited.

    Apply this to transit, property taxes are well suited to fund “coverage” service, while a fares, sales, or income/payroll taxes may be well suited to fund “ridership” service. The current pandemic illistrates this to the extreme – as the economy collapses, the need for commuter-oriented expresses and <15 minute frequency disappears, but there is a broad base of service that remains, so would be helpful if Metro sufficient funding to meet its coverage needs with a property tax, rather than relying entirely on Sales tax & Fares

  9. Your suggestion that it isn’t necessary that they stay in their home for 30 years and move to something smaller is totally ignorant and absurd!! I think a senior has earned their right to live and do whatever they want since they only have a few years to do so.

  10. Not all houses are the same. There’s a difference between one elderly person in a 700 sq ft house on a small lot vs one elderly person in a 1500 sq ft hours on a large lot. What bothers younger people is when people who have more home than average expect other people to subsidize them, especially when it overlaps with the nimby movement and the general unaffordability of housing for many people. When I visited a friend’s parents in north Tacoma, I couldn’t help but think that they had a better house and neighborhood than most of Tacoma so why should they get extraordinary benefits on top of that?

    1. @Mike Orr

      As I said to another poster you will become a senior citizen sometime in the future and then you will find out what it is like to be one and then have some younger person tell them that they have no right to live in their house. When that happens you will be singing a different tune. And by the way it doesn’t matter how small or big the house is it is their house and they have every right to decide if they want to continue to live in it.

    2. I won’t be asking for a property tax discount since I don’t have a house. The most likely thing I’d ask for is senior housing or an affordable apartment.

  11. If seniors live in their house for 30 yrs, they’ve paid taxes for several generations of school kids. Maybe they should get property tax free?
    And whose to say seniors should move into smaller home, why because someone younger thinks they should? We’re in our 40s and have lived in our current home 20 yrs. The smaller homes now less square footage , no yards, cost more than we paid for our current house. Maybe people should remember you too will be a senior , I hope you remember this conversation. Part of living in the US is we are free to make choices for ourselves, you do not have the right to make decisions for others.
    You want to worry about something? Worry about creeping socialism that will take all your choices from you. And government woll decided what you get and don’t get. Gov Insley has already been trying to subvert the voters on the license plate tags. And would use OUR tax dollars to fight it in court!

  12. Single individuals living on their own should get a ‘single househiold’ exemption on their property tax bill since they contribute the same as a family of 2 or more in a household. They earn less and do not access more of the services for which they contribute to, in fact far less yet pay the same, where is the sense in that. By far most households appear to have 2 or more individuals, and the property tax system as it stands is geared to benefit those households! Many singles through property taxes are also paying through their noses for services they can ill afford like high millage rates for the school systems when they have no children.

  13. The fundamental issues are the shortage of housing and the space-wasting design of postwar construction. If one senior sells a house due to property taxes and one wealthier person buys it, that’s not necessarily better. If a hedge fund buys it to rent out at high cost or somebody turns it into an airbnb, those aren’t good either. If the senor receives a property tax discount, others must pay more for public services or the services must be reduced.

    Contrary to Katzz’ assertion, there’s an inverse relationship between the number of people per house and its demand on services. One person in a large house with a large yard is taking space that could house more people, and pushing everything apart so it’s harder to walk to things. People should have a decent-sized living space and access to the outdoors (e.g., yard/courtyard/balcony), but Americans have gotten excessive. In the 1950s the average house was 800 square feet with two adults and 1-2 kids. That’s the size of a large apartment now. The apartments in the Summit district were full of families with children in the 1950s and 1970s. Many houses in Mt Baker, Phinney Ridge, White Center, and James/240th Street in Kent are small-house/small-lot, while houses in northeast Seattle, Broadview, Shoreline, and most of the suburbs are medium-house/large-lot or large-house/large-lot. A senior keeping their small house is better than a senior keeping their large house. Long-term what’s needed is to replace those large houses with duplexes/townhouses/apartments so that more people can have a decent place to live. This can get lost in the short-term debate over whether seniors should get property-tax exemptions. The goal is to house a larger percent of the population. As long as single-family houses remain, and given Seattle’s low person-to-house ratio, the more people in each house, the better.

    As for a senior not putting a burden on the school system, those chilren are somewhere in the community if they’re not in that house, and our society has long decided that the entire community should pay for the cost of educating our children. The state constitution says the state’s primary responsibility is educating children.

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