Rep. Matthew Willard Launches Effort to Cap Residential Property Assessment Increases; Moreno Writes Letter of Support

Official photo courtesy Louisiana House of Representatives

Rising property tax assessments in New Orleans have been an ongoing issue for several years. Now, a new bill proposed by State Rep. Matthew Willard would cap residential property valuation increases at 10 percent a year, unless the valuation change was due to renovation or sale. This could help slow the erosion of affordable housing across New Orleans – which has been in the middle of an affordable housing crisis for several years.

“When I was on the campaign trail working to represent the people of District 97 in the Louisiana House of Representatives, I heard from many families who were fearful of losing their homes due to surging property taxes,” said Rep. Willard. “Some homeowners had seen their property values double, and that’s nearly impossible for the average family to absorb. I made a commitment during my campaign to provide our families with relief, and I believe HB 143 is the remedy we need.”

Earlier this week, New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno sent a letter of support to Willard, lauding his efforts.

“Housing affordability is a bedrock issue in New Orleans, and I’m proud to stand with State Rep. Willard on his effort to cap these escalating costs that drive up rents and chase longtime homeowners from their family homes,” Council President Moreno said. “Everything good, worthwhile, and sacred about our City is derived from the people who live here, and we must protect our neighborhoods from rising costs wherever we can.”

In 2020, tax assessments for around 8,500 property owners across New Orleans increased more than 50 percent – mainly in the Uptown area. An additional 4,000 saw their values at least double. This could mean thousands of dollars added to the annual property tax bill of homeowners across the city.

“This is the first step of many to try to make the way our tax assessments are done sensible and predictable. Affordable housing includes the expenses of homeownership and in many instances, our current methods are acting as a gun, and effectively robbing people of their homes. We have to have a system that allows not only the wealthy but all New Orleanians to live and thrive in their neighborhoods,” said District B Councilmember Jay H. Banks.

According to a recent study by Christopher Berry and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, properties in lower-income neighborhoods are usually taxed at nearly double the rates of those in wealthier neighborhoods.

“This pattern jumps out from the data, so it didn’t take me long to see once I had the data,” Barry said in an interview with Insider. “I think the issue is that not many people are looking at these data.”

In New Orleans, houses with a lower sale price were consistently assessed at a higher tax rate.

Christopher Berry

“Even experts on the property tax often overlook the issue of assessment quality. Meanwhile, assessors, who really should be looking at these issues, have developed a set of standards and practices that tend to sweep the problem under the rug.”

The study cited a report by Together New Orleans which found that higher-valued parcels of land were assessed at below-average sale prices, reflecting the fact that property assessments were not conducted equitably.

“It is critical that we do everything we can to ensure New Orleans residents are not priced out of their homes,” Moreno wrote in a letter to Rep. Willard. “Retaining our neighborhoods and culture means retaining our neighbors – the people that make our City special. As we enter Year Two of COVID-19 and acknowledge the impacts it has had upon residents and small business owners, the need to keep our neighbors in our neighborhoods remains a top priority. By capping the increase in the assessed value at 10% of the property’s assessed value in the previous year, we can help mitigate tax liability and help to relieve the burden felt by so many.”

Rep. Willard agrees.

“This legislation is more important now as our families and communities are reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are still seeing residential property values increase,” said Rep. Willard. “It is imperative we pass this Constitutional Amendment to insulate our families from skyrocketing residential property values.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story appeared with a different headline. This has been updated to include Rep. Willard’s statements, and the headline has been corrected to focus on his efforts.

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