More than 100 Raleigh residents turned out at the Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday to ask officials for relief from skyrocketing property taxes. 

The cohort were all members of ONE Wake, a grassroots community group calling for a program that offers payments to people who have owned their homes for at least 10 years and earn less than 80 percent of the area median income. The program would cover any and all property taxes that exceed 2 percent of qualifying homeowners’ annual income. 

That goes much farther than existing relief programs, which limit aid based on both income level and age, disability, or veteran status. In a discussion last month, some commissioners seemed reluctant to commit to a tax grant program, which would offer the kind of direct aid ONE Wake is asking for. Commissioners asked staff to explore other options for keeping housing affordable, such as the creation of a community land trust, a homeowner care fund, or a foreclosure prevention fund. 

Many residents who spoke at the meeting Monday reflected on their circumstances in detail, describing how existing programs are not helping them. Leslie Fox, who (for now) lives on Haynes Street in Raleigh, spoke about how health problems cut her career short in 2012, leaving her with a house that had expenses greater than her income.

Fox was “livid” when she found out she was ineligible for the state’s existing relief program because of her disability benefits, she said. Without disability, her taxable income is $8,500 a year. 

“I have had to rent out a portion of my house to take care of my house and stay in my house, and meanwhile my property taxes have skyrocketed,” she said. “There’s not gonna be any way I can stay in it without property tax relief. I expect that my property taxes are gonna go up, probably another $3,000 with the next valuation.”

Elaine Peebles-Brown, a fourth-generation Wake County resident and leading ONE Wake advocate, talked about how she wants to keep her home in the family. 

“My granddaughter would like to move here from Maryland and continue her career in education. She would be the sixth generation of the Peebles family. But the escalating property taxes are making it extremely difficult,” Peebles-Brown said. 

She added that she would be happy to work with the commissioners to help “craft a solution” that works for everyone. 

Members of ONE Wake were optimistic and positive when speaking to the commissioners, talking about how they wanted to bring the community together and support their neighbors. So far, commissioners seem willing to work with them.

Also Monday, the board voted unanimously to again rename the public library in the Village District south of Wade Avenue, the largest in the county. 

Commissioners changed the name from Village Regional Library to “Oberlin Regional Library,” taking another step toward racial equity. 

Most people know the library by its earlier name, Cameron Village Library. The name of the shopping center and library was changed last year after it came to light that the Cameron family for which the center was named were slave-owners.

Cameron Village was rechristened simply “The Village,” a name that is innocuous at best and meaningless at worst. At the time, some North Carolinians questioned why the owners of the shopping center hadn’t taken the opportunity to recognize nearby Oberlin Village, a historic Black community. 

Oberlin Village was originally founded in the late 1860s when former slaves, freed during or after the Civil War, settled there. It soon grew into a thriving African American community that today is home to some of the area’s oldest homes and churches. 

Now, library staff will develop an exhibit inside the institution to educate visitors about the history of Oberlin Village and why the library’s name was changed, according to a news release. 

“By honoring this community and the people who lived there, we are recognizing and celebrating a very important part of Wake County’s rich history,” said Commissioner Matt Calabria in the release. 

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