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Lots of tax relief available, but not many takers among Mecklenburg homeowners

Bernice Bryant qualified for a grant through Mecklenburg County's HOMES program to defray the property tax bill on her Washington Height's home.
Lisa Worf
/
WFAE
Bernice Bryant qualified for a grant through Mecklenburg County's HOMES program to defray the property tax bill on her Washington Heights home.

There’s a big pool of property tax relief money available to Mecklenburg County residents needing help. But in a year where tax bills increased markedly, few are taking advantage of the assistance.

Bernice Bryant lives in Washington Heights, a neighborhood on Charlotte’s west side that saw property values sharply increase with this year’s revaluation. Her tax bill went up by around $700. A neighbor told her about Mecklenburg County’s HOMES program.

“It makes a big difference, not only to me, but to everyone else who needs the help,” Bryant said.

But the county is seeing nowhere near the number of applications it expected. Out of the $12.1 million set aside for the program, $10.7 million remains.

That amounts to about 2,800 applications approved, double the number approved last year, but only a small fraction of the county's goal.

The deadline to apply, which has already been extended, is coming up in two weeks.

Claudette Smith, who lives in east Charlotte, says there’s plenty of need, but the word is not getting out. She took matters into her own hands with neighbors and friends.

“I went as far as even getting the applications mailed to them, with putting my own postage on there,” Smith said.

Home values in the North End's Genesis Park neighborhood sharply rose since 2019.
Lisa Worf
/
WFAE
Home values in the North End's Genesis Park neighborhood sharply rose since 2019.

Applications are available online, but Smith’s older friends had trouble accessing them. She’s tried to talk others through the process, but says there are obstacles.

“You either cannot get a person to answer the phone with the HOMES program or they never just call you back. And so you have people hanging on, ‘Well, when will I get this?’” Smith said.

Mecklenburg County has sent postcards, canvassed neighborhoods, worked with HOAs, and taken out ads on billboards and radio, says DeLisa Tolbert with the county’s Department of Community Resources.

“I see that we're doing almost everything humanly possible to make sure that people are aware, but there is a level of education that I think we have to consider as well,” said county commissioner Mark Jerrell.

At a time when there are so many identity theft schemes, Jerrell says, some homeowners hear about the HOMES program, but question whether it’s a legitimate offer of assistance.

The county is offering guidance in person with a decision the same day at the Valerie C. Woodard Community Resource Center in west Charlotte and the Ella B. Scarborough Community Resource Center in northeast Charlotte on these dates:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 14, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 15, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This is the fourth year Mecklenburg County has offered tax relief through the HOMES program. It started in 2020 with $250,000. Only about half of that money was tapped. It grew to $358,000 last year with all that money being used.
This year with the revaluation and property values steeply increasing county commissioners expected the need to grow. Along with a contribution by the city of Charlotte, the program increased to $12.1 million.

To qualify, residents must make no more than 80% of the area’s median income, which is $79,750 for a family of four. The HOMES program knocks off 25% of a home’s assessed value. The amount of taxes you can save is capped at $660 for city residents, and $426 for county residents living outside city limits. You also cannot use any of the state tax relief programs to receive assistance through HOMES.

You can apply here. The deadline is Dec. 15.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.