Our seniors are being taxed out of their homes. We need to find new ways for seniors to age in place, and quality affordable living options for whose who prefer downsizing.
Many Town boards recently attempted to fund an eight-unit senior affordable housing project. I was very sad when the State withdrew from the project. We should keep going and make it happen.
Massachusetts has a number of tax discount options available to seniors who want to remain in their homes. Towns can opt into them. Northborough has many of these. As I speak with seniors, I’m finding many don’t know about them, or know they don’t qualify. The income limits are horribly low. In some cases, we can raise the limits – and we should.
The most intriguing option is the “Clause 41A Senior Tax Deferral” program. This allows eligible seniors to defer (delay) payment of their property taxes for the rest of their lives, or until they sell their home. That’s right, if a senior needs the money, they can pay no taxes at all. When the home is sold, or the owners pass away, the Town is repaid – with 4% interest. Unfortunately, the income limit here in Northborough is the legal minimum, just $20,000 for an individual or $40,000 for a married couple. That’s less than what most seniors get from Social Security, so very few are eligible.
Northborough has the option to raise that limit, and we should. All it takes is a simple Town Meeting vote. The maximum allowed is the same as the circuit breaker tax credit. For 2021 that was $62,000. The maximum is likely around $65,000 for 2022; the state’s web site hasn’t been updated yet. Raising Northborough’s limit would help our seniors stay in their homes.
The Board of Selectmen should ask the Assessors, Council on Aging, and Senior Center staff to recommend the most appropriate income limit and see it presented at next year’s Town Meeting.
Here are links to additional information on this topic.
Here’s the chart of property tax relief options, from the Northborough Assessor’s office:
Here’s the state’s guide to exactly how Clause 41A works, including details on raising the income limits.
Here are the state’s details on the senior circuit breaker tax credit. The figure for “single individual who is not the head of a household” is the maximum Clause 41A income limit (that maximum is the same for both single and married homeowners).