I’ve complained about my dead aunt paying property tax before. I’ve even reported it to the DC Office of Tax and Revenue in 2016 and nothing, so I’m going to treat it like a very open secret, and assume DC government doesn’t give a rat’s rear end.
My great Aunt Geraldine died in February of 2012, she was over 100 years old. Prior to her death she was in a nursing home somewhere in Maryland. Her estate, which is a side of family I’m not familiar with, has been paying the property taxes. That’s fine except, they’ve been paying at the hugely reduced Senior Homestead Deduction.
Forgive me, math is not my strength, but without any deduction she’d be paying $2368.09 annually. Her estate and not my dead aunt, because being dead she’s not doing much these days, has been paying $685.82 annually. Roughly that’s a 60% discount.
The Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction is one hell of a discount. So when you encounter someone who 65 years old or older and or disabled who is a homeowner complaining about property taxes being too high, ask if they are receiving the deduction. Of course they could be receiving the deduction and still complain, as old people are wont to do. You could also look their house up on the DC Property Tax Database to check if they are receiving the deduction.
It is such a great deduction that estates, like my Aunt Geraldine’s estate, has no incentive to transfer the property into the names of younger hands. It is also a problem for vacant properties where the owner is dead.
The John Mercer Langston School at 43 P Street NW has been sitting empty and vacant since 1997*. That’s 20 years of rotting away with nothing being done to bring it back to life.
When the problem of the school was mentioned at on Bates Area Civic Association to the representative from Ward 5 Councilman Kenyon McDuffie‘s office didn’t seem to be familiar with the hulking corpse of a building and might have confused it with another building. There is so much development going on, some involving city owned land, I understand it can be confusing.
Part of the problem is whomever is the Ward Councilperson for Ward 5 is not particularly interested in being proactive regarding this property. They and or their staff seem to believe the “process” will take care of it. The process is broken.
As a school, charters have first dibs. Langston is a gut job, so no serious charter school is going through the long process getting the school to dump millions of dollars in the building’s renovation. There was a fight for the John F. Cook across the street that Mundo Verde eventually won and added to, but Cook was empty for less than 5 years and was still functional as a building.
Yes, there is an educational center next door in Slater that has always expressed interest in Langston. However the occupants of Slater are poor tenants. Poor as in too poor to do the work needed to have the Langston building gutted, brought up to code, while respecting the building’s Historic Landmark status. However, councilperson staff will almost always drag up that unrealistic possibility when asked about what’s is if anything going on with Langston. The occupants of Slater have been interested in Langston for at least 15 years. If given 15 more years they will express the same level of interest without much action to show for it.
What’s the solution? Well I have an answer no one will like and possibly won’t happen due to the shared lot with Slater, luxury condos. Turning schools into high priced condos or apartments add fuel to the fire of the gentrification unaffordable housing debate. But let me remind you of the problem… Historic Landmark; 21st century building codes; rotting corpse of a building. To work with and deal with those things require the kind of money DINK households making 100-200% of the AMI bring. This cannot be and should not be done on the cheap. And unless the city wants to throw the Slater occupants under the bus, so they can offer a well heeled charter both buildings to make it worth the while, no school with the ability to rehab both buildings (Slater is bad off too) is seriously going to touch it.
*According to the Wikipedia page about the school.