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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 7, 2006

New tax-relief proposals emerge

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu City Council members yesterday produced several more proposals designed to provide property tax relief to homeowners complaining about three years of soaring tax assessments and bills that have tripled in the past five years.

City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz and Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi proposed two more relief bills, one designed to benefit landlords who rent to low-income residents and another to increase exemptions for people as their household income decreases.

They said the proposals are designed to provide relief to those who need it most: the elderly, those with lower incomes and middle-income working families. And they say the multiple proposals show the City Council's commitment to some kind of tax relief soon.

"We've got to look at everything," Kobayashi said.

Their Bill 3 would grant an owner who provides low-income housing an exemption from property taxes for the next tax year equal to 20 percent of the gross assessed value of property dedicated as low-income rental. Further, property owners leasing to participants in the Section 8 assistance program could receive an exemption from taxes equal to 100 percent of the value.

"Statistics show that the supply of available rental units has fallen by 83 percent between 1998 and 2004," Dela Cruz said.

Their Bill 4 offers an increasing property tax exemption to homeowners as the household income decreases. The measure would benefit households making between 20 percent and 160 percent of median income.

City Councilman Rod Tam took a different approach and proposed changing the city's method of calculating property assessments. But he said that since it would not provide relief this year, he will work with other council members on finding some approach to immediate relief.

"Many constituents have told me that there seems to be a fundamental flaw in the way in which the city is currently calculating property assessments that puts too much emphasis on current market values and does not take into consideration the amount of time a homeowner has lived in their homes," he said.

Tam's proposal (Bill 5) would limit property assessment increases to varying levels for homeowners holding title for various time periods, such as:

  • Five years or less, no cap.

  • More than five and up to 10 years, 5 percent cap on assessment increases.

  • More than 10 and up to 15 years, 4 percent cap on assessment increases.

  • More than 15 and up to 20 years, 3 percent cap on assessment increases.

  • More than 20 and up to 25 years, 2 percent cap on assessment increases.

  • More than 25 and up to 30 years, 1 percent cap on assessment increases.

  • More than 30 years, no increases.

    Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.