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New Hanover County's revaluation last year hit this Black neighborhood harder than almost anywhere else

Last year, New Hanover County re-assessed the value of every property within the county’s bounds. The average home saw a 30% increase, but one neighborhood blew far past that.

Back in 2014, Star News ran an article about the “up and coming” Brooklyn Arts district. At the time, the neighborhood had seen new businesses moving in, and even more change was coming.

That change has accelerated since, and property values have shot up in the four years between 2017 and 2021.

Dante Haywood is a data analyst at Cape Fear Collective. In a collaboration with WHQR, he found that the Northside’s home values shot up faster than almost anywhere else in the county. That can be seen most clearly by looking at the county’s revaluation in 2021, compared to values in 2017. Most homes in the county saw a 30% increase.

"However, for the Northside, we're not seeing that 30%," Haywood said. "We're seeing more than double that revaluation.

According to Haywood's analysis, the average home in the Northside saw a 70% to 80% increase in the revaluation process. And 4 out of 5 homes in the neighborhood experienced a much more dramatic increase than the median home in the rest of the county.

A higher revaluation leads to a higher tax burden, and that’s falling disproportionately on the historically Black and rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in the Northside.

New Hanover County Tax Administrator Allison Snell said the revaluation isn’t a question of racial justice — it’s simply marking the changes that are occurring in the local market. The new value set in 2021 is what the county determined the property’s market value to be on January 1, 2021.

“The sales that take place around the county are really what kind of sets the destination for where the values are going to end up," Snell said. "Different neighborhoods and different geographic areas will perform differently.”

Those sales drive the revaluation, and the county does not consider demographics when it looks at those changes, Snell added. “We don't look at people when we're conducting revaluation. We are looking at sales and what is occurring in a given neighborhood."

But Haywood is concerned about the long-term implications of the revaluation on the Northside, given that it will increase the tax burden on elderly, low-income residents there.

“When we think about the policies and what is the effect of these things that we're doing sort of at a local government level, it is going to have an effect," Haywood said. "And I think it does already have an effect as we're seeing people move out of certain neighborhoods within the Northside. And it definitely doesn't keep people in that neighborhood."

Revaluations affect all homes, whether they've been sold or refurbished recently or not. 80% of Northside properties saw an increase higher than the county's median, so the vast majority of residents saw a significant increase in their taxes.

Still, there are options for those who can’t afford their new tax bill after revaluation. While Northside residents can’t fight the market, they can take advantage of assistance programs.

“There are some programs available for people that are lower income or our disabled, or what have you," Snell said. "All those are available to anyone who meets the qualifications set forth out of state."

Those programs are largely aimed at the permanently disabled and the elderly- and many long-time residents of the Northside are elderly. Programs like theHomestead Circuit Breaker taxdeferment program are aimed at longer-term residents, and cap taxes at 4 or 5% of a homeowner’s income. But the county's site discussing the revaluation doesn't link to those programs. Still, Snell says all residents had access to the information, because it's written on the revaluation notice they received in 2021.

The county does not track data for who, exactly, takes advantage of these tax break programs. More than 2,200 properties are receiving the Elderly/Disabled exclusion and more than 750 are receiving the veteran exclusion.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.