By Seth Daniel
Many have assumed for years that the numerous three-family homes in Chelsea were owned by absentee landlords, but as it turns out some two-thirds of those homes are owner-occupied, and one councillor said he is ready to take some extreme measures to protect them and their tenants from a rather large tax increase coming their way.
Information provided this week from the Assessor’s Office shows that 68 percent of the three-family homes in Chelsea are owner-occupied. That equals out to be 651 out of 953 three-families, and Councillor Giovanni Recupero – who is also a three-family homeowner – said the City needs to take measures to protect this larger than expected population.
“We now know you have 600-plus three-family homeowners in this city and they can make change,” Recupero said. “The three family homeowner hasn’t gotten a break on taxes in the last five years at least. It might be longer. You can’t keep sticking it to the three-family homeowner with 18 percent increases in value year after year.”
It comes on the heels of City Manager Tom Ambrosino telling the Council last week that three-family homes have increased by 18.5 percent over last year as the multi-family home market in Chelsea continues to be red-hot. That 18 percent interest is great for those looking to sell their homes or those looking to borrow against their homes, but for those who are content to take no such actions, it means higher taxes.
The three family increase in the tax bill – even with the owner occupant residential exemption – could be anywhere from $639 to $361, depending on how much of an exemption the Council chooses to grant this year. At the same time, due to the economics of the situation, single-family and two-family homeowners will likely see a decrease in their tax bill over last year.
“Everyone is so worried about things in the city and no one is worrying about the homeowner and the poor tenants,” Recupero said. “There are a lot of homeowners out there who rent apartments to people at a reasonable rate and they don’t want to go up on rents. At 18 percent increases every year, they are going to have to raise rents and that’s going to chase people further out and lead to more gentrification. That is what is happening here and we have to help these poor people who have lived here all their lives.”
Beyond the homeowners, Recupero said he sees that lower-income people and Hispanic people in the city are going to be further displaced by the continued rise in three-family tax bills.
“The real story here, I think, is that this is driving out all the Hispanic residents,” he said. “If you talk to landlords in Chelsea who rent to these folks, they will tell you they are going to have to raise rents on their apartments because of these increases. They say they will have to raise rents to keep up.”
Recupero said he has a number of idea for homeowners, including a grant program for three-family owner-occupied homes that would be within the budget and require yearly approval.
He said he would like to see an emergency budget request for his proposed program in this budget year, which started on July 1.
“We have to do something,” he said. “We have grants for all kinds of things, so I think we should have this grant for three-family homeowners while increases continue like they are. We give grants for arts and the Cultural Council, so why not do something like that for this? If we can do something, that could keep these poor people here, whether renters or homeowners. We’re talking about more than 600 homes and probably triple that number in families.”
The Council will be voting to set the tax rate on Monday, Nov. 7.