Hundreds of people responded to a story earlier this week about Seattle-area homeowners feeling forced to move away because of the higher taxes. The responses echoed that financial struggle and offered up ideas for solutions.
Hundreds of people from across the state and country have contacted The Seattle Times in recent days to share their thoughts on Washington’s latest property-tax increase, responding to a story in the newspaper about Seattle-area homeowners being unable to afford the heftier rate.
This year’s property-tax increases vary city by city, reflecting skyrocketing home values, voter-approved levies and a plan by state lawmakers to fully fund public schools. In King County, the spikes range from 9 percent in Normandy Park to 31 percent in Carnation.
The front-page story featured a retired Kirkland couple, Dennis and Patricia Hall, who live on a fixed income and said the latest tax bill forced them to sell the home they built in 1980 for $55,000 and intended to live in forever. The property went for $1.2 million.
They are not alone.
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A steady stream of emails, phone calls and responses on social media has flooded The Seattle Times since the story’s publication April 2, many echoing the same struggles, others offering suggestions for fixing the state’s tax system and a few comparing costs to places elsewhere.
Here are a few of the responses. Some have been edited for length and clarity.
‘The playing field isn’t equal’
“The region’s increasing property values and taxes are unsustainable. The consequences will be forcing homeowners to leave, which slows down home building, selling and growth. If our politicians can’t see past dollar signs for tomorrow, or act as fiduciaries of their citizens tax dollars, then perhaps they need legislation to rein them in — a constitutional law for the state that caps property tax increases to inflation.”
— Kim Miller, Kenmore
“I grew up in Seattle, but I count my blessings every day that I don’t live there, and I live in Tacoma now. This tax system is not how the economy is supposed to work. Taxes should never surpass incomes, specifically retirees. This is very sad, bad economics and a crime against the state of Washington. This is going to put retirees into potential homelessness. We don’t need more people homeless, we already have too many.”
— Shane Ourada, Tacoma
“If you are homeless, some Seattle City Council members will declare housing your human right and that it should be freely provided. If you are the old lady in West Seattle, you have no such right; your right is to pay your tax, or the county will auction off your house to pay your tax bill.”
— Joe Wall, Phinney Ridge
“What are we going to do if our governments have no money to pay for the things they need in order to operate? Governments pay for police, fire, infrastructure and services for people who claim disability. People in this country want their cake and want to eat it, too. Yes, the playing field isn’t equal, but funding schools is the best way to level the playing field.”
— Susan Amorosi, Kirkland
More stories of retirees selling, moving away
“I’m ahead of the future nightmare coming to Seattle. I bought a home in 2013 in Goodyear, Arizona, in a gated community. I sold my two town houses in Seattle last November and am renting now until I make Arizona my permanent address. I’m here in a retirement community along with many others who have made the move because of Seattle’s taxes and political views. The saying when I first moved to Seattle was, ‘The last person leaving Seattle turn off the lights.’ They say history does repeat itself.”
— Roger Wuthier, Goodyear, Ariz.
“Amazing how emotionally attached we get to homes. A house worth 1 million dollars and a couple finds it difficult to leave, as they had hoped to die in it. The grand illusion of security vanishes. I am selling my house next year and moving to Mexico. Always look ahead never behind, if you are wise.”
— Bruce Gelman, West Seattle
Pennsylvania homeowners chime in
“The median home value in Seattle is ($777,000). I’m not sure how King County establishes the value number, but I’m quite sure my three-bedroom home on less than one-third acre might sell today for maybe $250,000. My property taxes are $8,380.
Property taxes in King County may sound like a lot, but they are sure better than mine. I do feel for the couple that built their home for $55,000 and are now looking at a property value of more than $1 million since they are in the same position as me — retired on fixed income.”
— Gary Summers, East Stroudsburg, Pa.
“I paid $117,000 for my home 10 years ago. My taxes are about $4,500 a year. The home is about 1,600 square feet. Most of the houses in this area are old and not in very good shape. If you compare our taxes against home value, it will make Seattle’s taxes look very low.
We will be moving when we retire. There’s no way we could retire if we stayed.”
— Kirk Seddon, Apollo, Pa.
How about a state income tax?
“I am another property owner fed up with the constant increases in property taxes. The property tax system in this state is regressive. We need to seek legislation to impose a state income tax for Washington that taxes individuals on their income — not on their assets.
I, too, purchased my home in the 1980s for $215,000. It is now valued at almost $800,000 with a yearly tax bill for 2018 of $11,799. I can see a time in the future when a property tax bill that high will force me to reconsider keeping my home that I have been in for 28 years.
Being taxed on our income would be a fair way for the state to collect revenue and distribute it to counties for the needs of schools, etc.”
— Liz Sanborn, Des Moines
Why not a measure similar to California’s Proposition 13?
“California had this problem; retired people were forced to sell lifelong homes in their senior years because they couldn’t pay the taxes. Proposition 13, which limits property tax increases, came about. Maybe Washington needs its own version. We survived with the new tax, so can you.”
— Joseph Lopez, San Francisco area, Calif.
“Wish we would follow California’s lead and limit assessment increases. It seems fair to me that after reaching a certain age, 60 or 65, and residing in your house for 20 years or more, the state should stabilize your assessed home value. Then, we would have less of an increase to deal with.”
— Dede Chinlund, Seattle
“Just this weekend, my wife and I were discussing the issue of longtime residents of the Central District being pushed out because of increasing property taxes. We were wondering whether a system such as that in Alameda County, California would be fairer and allow more people to remain in their homes.
It would undoubtedly result in some inequities. But there could be means testing.”
— Jeffrey Jones, Ballard