OP-ED: New Policies Will Provide Long-Term Help with Property Tax Hike

Like so many of you, I received a notice this week that the assessment of our house is going up — way up. But, unlike many Lexingtonians, I wasn’t surprised at our 57 percent hike. 

For the past three years, I have been part of a group that has been educating people about the connection between land use policies and the cost of housing.

Lexington For Everyone began advocating for balanced, equitable land use policies that will provide more opportunity for land for jobs and housing at all income levels and stages of life. 

Fayette County PVA David O’Neill has been bearing the brunt of people’s unhappiness with the property tax increases, but that blame is misdirected. He doesn’t create policy. He assesses the market and implements that policy. Mr. O’Neill has been providing valuable education on this matter for a long time. His presentations to groups and individuals explain that starter homes aren’t being built in Lexington anymore and that home prices have skyrocketed 100 percent in 10 years.

Those are among the reasons why Lexington For Everyone advocated for a modest amount of land to be included in the Urban Service Boundary, where most of the growth is allowed. Only 30-percent of Fayette County is within that boundary, so the vast majority of land is off limits to new houses and facilities for jobs. 

The simple principle of supply and demand is pricing young professionals, essential workers and seniors on a fixed income out of the market. That’s why Lexington ranked 7th highest in rent increases in the country in 2022, had a higher percentage rent increase than New York City in 2023 and was named the third most difficult place for Gen Z to buy a home this year — along with seven cities in California.

Those alarming numbers are reasons for action. And some recent action is now reason for long-term optimism. Now, more than ever, there is awareness of the problem and a willingness to work together to solve it. Three major efforts are underway: 

  • The city made a commitment to set aside 1 percent of the previous year’s budget for affordable housing, which doubles this investment in affordable housing.  
  • The Council overwhelmingly voted to include more land for homes and jobs in the new Comprehensive Plan, which guides how the city will grow. That plan also included a strong commitment to affordable housing.
  • A consortium of local banks — Central Bank, Community Trust Bank, Republic Bank & Trust, Stock Yards Bank and Traditional Bank — purchased land from Transylvania University for opportunities for homeownership and rental for families and seniors. It has established a $3 million revolving capital fund, which will transform vacant land into a place where people will be proud to call home. An unprecedented number of affordable housing developers — AU Associates, Lexington Habitat for Humanity, Lexington Housing Authority, Urban League of Lexington and Winterwood — will build the housing and pay back the funds, which are interest-free. That money will then be used in future projects. This public-private partnership is also receiving assistance from the city and a $10 million grant from the state.

But these are long-term solutions, and residents should remain involved in the process. 

The Urban Growth Master Plan, which will be drafted by a consultant and approved by the Planning Commission, will dictate how and where new homes and jobs will be located in the new expansion areas. This plan will be completed by December. We must ensure that it contains land for a variety of housing types and jobs as well as remove roadblocks and unnecessary bureaucracy, which would make future development difficult by causing delays and higher prices. 

Get involved. Contact the Planning Commission and Council to make your voice heard. In addition, CivicLex and TSW Design are holding workshops about the master plan

And for the many families facing financial hardships in paying higher property taxes, they can appeal the assessment with the PVA. Seniors and those with disabilities can file for a homestead exemption, which deducts $46,350 from the assessment of a qualified applicant’s residence.

Carla Blanton
Avatar for Carla Blanton

Carla Blanton is a Lexington For Everyone Board Member.