Last year, between October 6 and December 31, 204 Durham County homeowners received tax assistance through an inaugural program to help them stay in their homes.
This year, the Low-Income Homeowners Relief (LIHR) program started on August 1 and ends again on December 31. Even with the two-month headstart, 214 homeowners have applied and 133 applicants have already been approved for tax assistance.
Lee Little, a program manager with Durham County’s Aging and Adult Services, says the county is “doing great this year.”
“Last year we had over 300 applicants,” Little told the INDY Tuesday. “We have already hit that number and it’s just the second month [of the application period]. We are definitely exceeding what we did last year.”
The LIHR tax assistance program is a joint effort between the county’s tax office and the department of social services.
Little says there were several factors that led to the creation of the tax assistance program. The pandemic was one reason, but also rising property tax costs, inflation, and the economic impact on older homeowners, many of whom are on fixed incomes.
“One concern was whether our vulnerable population on fixed incomes would get the relief they needed to stay in their homes,” Little says. “It became a priority in Durham County for people to be able to age in place, and remain in their homes.”
Last year, in order to be eligible for tax assistance, low-income homeowners must have owned their home for 10 years or more, and could receive up to $750 for their current property tax bill.
Little says he thinks that with LIHR now in its second year, more homeowners have heard about the program, but he also points to significant guideline changes that will likely help more low-income homeowners.
This year, the program “will exclusively serve Durham homeowners who are currently living in their homes for five years,” according to a county press release.
The county’s low-income homeowners relief program was established last year to provide tax assistance for residents who earn less than or equal to 80 percent of Durham’s average median income.
Last year, eligible homeowners could receive up to $750.
This year, county officials unveiled a “three-tiered income model” that will be used to determine the amount of tax assistance each homeowner may receive. A homeowner who earns 30 percent or less of the average median income (AMI) will be eligible, for instance, for $1,500, “the maximum amount awarded,” Pamela Purifoy, a county spokeswoman, told the INDY.
The award will be applied only to the current tax bills of eligible homeowners, who “will receive a letter of their award prior to the releasing of funds,” and all assistance will be paid directly to the county tax office, according to the release.
Homeowners who are interested in applying for tax assistance must show proof of residency with a current property tax bill that lists their name on their primary residence
Homeowners are also asked to show proof of household income and photo Identification
“It is important to note that Durham property taxes are due January 5, 2023. After January 5, 2023, interest will accrue on outstanding accounts,” officials stated in the release.
County officials add that county residents who are eligible for the program and have already paid their 2022 property tax will receive a letter for the amount they are approved and will receive reimbursement from the tax office.
Homeowners can apply for the homeowners tax assistance program online by visiting the county’s department of social services website.
Residents who need help applying for the program may call (919) 560-8000 to schedule an appointment with a low-income homeowner relief specialist.
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