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Higher Property Taxes: Homeownership Costs More For Black Families

A row of homes situated in Northeast Washington, D.C.
A row of homes situated in Northeast Washington, D.C.

A massive  new study analyzed more than a decade of tax assessments for 118 million homes nationwide. It found that Black homeowners pay, on average, 10 to 13% more in property taxes each year than a white family in the same situation. The reason? Black-owned homes were usually assessed at higher values, relative to their actual sale price, than white-owned homes.

Among the states studied, only three — Vermont, Oregon, and Indiana — failed to show a pattern of over-assessing Black homeowners. Minority homeowners, the study found, are also significantly less likely to appeal their property tax assessment.  

Similarly, a report by the University of Chicago indicated that Black homeowners pay nearly a third more than white homeowners for otherwise similar houses. 

“Homeownership in America has always been about race and who could buy a home has always been a function of racism,” says Dorothy Brown, a law professor at Emory University whose work focuses on systemic racism in tax policy.

The suburbs of Prince George’s County in Maryland, one of the wealthiest majority-Black counties in the country, is one place where Black homeowners have been getting a raw deal. And now a new proposalby the county council to get rid of a property tax cap could push taxes even higher. 

1A National Correspondent Sasha-Ann Simons spoke with Prince George’s County residents and some experts about property tax assessments, home ownership and discrimination.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.


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