Lincoln Miller’s (12/11/16) op-ed in response to Steve Pomerance’s (11/30/16) column about property tax exemptions for the Masala co-op raises questions about Boulder County’s property tax lien auction. If the BHC/BHA “authority” setup exists to help low-income residents find affordable housing, then what is the justification for the BoCo property tax lien auction which penalizes financially-distressed property owners liable for paying property taxes for failing to pay them? The reasons for property owners’ failure to pay their property taxes vary. Some simply forget, but some can’t pay because they find themselves in financial straits due to insufficient retirement income, unexpected job loss, unexpected major medical expenses, and unexpected property tax increases.
This BoCo property tax lien auction turns struggling low-income people into easy prey for profit-seeking bidders/investors who pay the outstanding property taxes in lieu of the property owner and accrue interest due until that property owner either pays up in full or totally defaults. This is how one elderly Boulder mobile home owner recently lost his home to a predatory out-of-town real estate investor.
How is this fair? Shouldn’t programs and policies purportedly meant to help low-income people to find affordable housing be on an equal footing with programs and policies meant to prevent low income residents from losing their formerly affordable housing? As a program that penalizes struggling low-income property owners, the BoCo property tax lien auction needs a thorough rethink, especially given Boulder’s skyrocketing property assessments and concomitant property tax increases.
Please contact the Boulder County Commissioners and the Boulder City Council to advocate for a level playing field for all Boulder residents, one that does not discriminate against financially distressed property owners who must subsidize property tax-exempt, low-rent-paying co-op residents whose incomes may exceed their own.
[Note: A version of this column has appeared in the Daily Camera as a Letter-to-the-Editor]