The city of Denver is ready to expand a program that provides tax relief to some residents.
Until now, the city has offered special tax refunds to people over 65 and people who are “totally disabled.” Starting on May 1, though, that program is set to help low-income homeowners with children, too.
“We’re going to be able to, for the first time, help families,” said Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech, a leader of the expansion along with Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore.
Eligible families could get a rebate of about $400 to $500 on their local property taxes. The refund is meant to help people deal with the higher property tax bills created by the city’s property boom.
The Denver City Council gave initial approval of the change on Wednesday and will take a final vote on Monday. It’s all but guaranteed to pass.
The new requirements are:
Eligible families must have at least one child under 18. The household income must be 40 percent or less of the area median income, or $26,880 for a family of three. The family must own a home and pay property taxes.
The rebates will be based on income: The less you make, the more you get back. It won’t be possible for low-income families to get a refund that exceeds what they paid in property taxes, though.
In 2017, the city sent out nearly 3,000 refunds to older people and those with disabilities through the program. City staff aren’t sure how many people will benefit from the expansion, but the program’s budget grew from $3.1 million for 2018 to $5.6 million for 2019.
Rebates will still be available for older people and people with disabilities, too. The income limit for that group will be 35 percent of area median income, or about $23,520 for a family of two. That’s a slight increase from the current limit. The program is available for both renters and homeowners from that group.
The city has offered rebates for older people since 1950. The latest expansion proposal began with the council’s housing and homelessness work group but also involved several city departments in a year-long conversation.
“Our residents actually came forward and said we’re on fixed incomes, we’re concerned about the rising property values, and what are we going to do to mitigate involuntary displacement,” Gilmore said.
The city will accept applications beginning on May 1 for rebates on the 2018 tax year. “This is going to help people stay where their community is,” said Mary Anna Thompson, a speaker at a public comment session.
In the past, the program has been “underutilized,” according to city staff, but the expansion could drive a wave of interest. It’s a “first-come, first-served” program, because there is only limited money each year.
“I feel confident we’re going to reach more households than in the past,” Kniech said. But she also has pointed out that there’s not a “huge” number of very low-income homeowners in Denver. The city may later re-examine whether the new income limit isn’t too low, and the government will have to ensure people know about the program, she said.