As JP Property Taxes Rise, Who Should Shoulder the Bill?

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Some Jamaica Plain News readers expressed sticker shock upon receiving their property tax bills this fall. It's perhaps no surprise, then, that JP figures prominently in a recent Boston Globe story examining rising residential property taxes in the city, particularly on triple-decker buildings, where bills are up 11 percent.

In Jamaica Plain, residential tax assessments are up 16 percent, according to the Globe -- a larger percentage increase than in Roslindale (13 percent) and West Roxbury (8 percent), although not as high as in Dorchester (19 to 20 percent) and East Boston (19 percent).

In addition to interviewing Eva Osorio, who counsels would-be home buyers at Jamaica Plain-based community development group Urban Edge, the Globe story features a JP couple grappling with how to respond to a sudden jump in their two-family property tax bill. From the story:

Bob Malsberger and his wife, Norma Steinberg, saw the taxes on their two-family in Jamaica Plain jump 20 percent, about $1,200 a year. That came after a 15 percent jump last year. They bought the building 35 years ago for $37,000, fixed it up themselves, and watched the neighborhood improve.

It has improved so much that a neighbor sold her three-decker last year for $1.1 million to a rehabber, who turned the building into three condos that — according to property records — sold for nearly $2.1 million combined.

“We’re kind of paying for that now,” Malsberger said.

Yet Malsberger and his wife are retired, living on a fixed income. So is the woman who rents their downstairs unit. They have no intention of selling, but that extra $1,200 in taxes has to come from somewhere.

“We either eat the tax increase or we raise our tenant’s rent to offset some of it,” he said. “I’m not sure what else to do.”

Rising residential property taxes clearly affect not only homeowners, but also landlords and renters. As real estate prices increase, somebody has to shoulder the cost of rising property taxes. How can the JP community -- and Boston at large -- best respond to these pressures?