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Oregon property tax-deferral program reinstated

State will pay more seniors' property taxes starting in 2014


Supporters of two legislative bills that restored most homeowners to the state Senior and Disabled Persons Property Tax Deferral Program are elated that they have been victorious.

"At long last, the struggle to restore so many desperate homeowners who were kicked out of the state's senior property tax deferral program is nearly over," said David Raphael of the Alliance of Vulnerable Homeowners.

"The Oregon Senate and House have passed HB2510A, the final hurdle facing efforts to reinstate previously terminated program participants. All that is left is to get the governor's signature."

The bill, which was carried on the Senate floor by Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) and in the House by Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-Portland) was adopted unanimously by each chamber.

The bill will enable up to 700 former program participants a year to apply for readmission, including people who were disqualified for the following reasons:

n Not living in their home for at least five years, a requirement that was added to the qualifications in 2011;

n Having a reverse mortgage and not living in their home for at least five years, added in 2011;

n Barred from reapplying to the program because of the new eligibility rules; and

n Failure to recertify after being confused or discouraged about the program changes two years ago and not responding to the Department of Revenue's re-certification notice.

The bill applies only to former program participants and does not affect new or future applicants.

And despite our efforts to have the bill's provisions implemented retroactively - so that people would be reinstated as of 2011 - homeowners covered by the bill will not be able to rejoin the tax deferral program until next year, Raphael said.

"We are of course delighted by the final passage of this legislation and want to thank all of those who worked so hard to get both of our bills passed this year,” he added.

Raphael said that help came from many organizations representing seniors, low-income families and people with disabilities.

"We also need to especially thank Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson and a handful of her colleagues who pushed for these reinstatements for their efforts on behalf of our members and all vulnerable homeowners," he added.

On April 5, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed HB2489A - the bill that permanently grandfathers 1,500 senior homeowners with reverse mortgages back into the Senior and Disabled Citizens Property Tax Deferral Program who were removed from the state's property tax deferral program in 2011 because they had reverse mortgages.

“We owe our most vulnerable citizens the same level of tax certainty that we grant to businesses,” Rep. Vega Pederson said. “Too many of our communities have seen neighbors forced out of their homes over the past few years.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done this session to provide more seniors and Oregonians with disabilities some comfort in knowing that this program will be there to help them if they need it.”

The Oregon State Legislature established the Senior and Disabled Citizens Property Tax Deferral Program in 1963 to help qualified citizens pay their county property taxes.

Essentially, the state agrees to make property tax payments on behalf of eligible participants.

A lien is placed on their property, and all taxes and fees with interest must be repaid before the lien is removed.

This is the second year the state of Oregon has asked participants to recertify their eligibility for the program.

Prior to changes made during the 2011 Legislature, no recertification process existed; once applicants gained admission to the program, they would remain active until they either died, transferred their property to someone else, or moved from their property for reasons not related to health.

The Alliance of Vulnerable Homeowners, which was formed two years ago, has fought for the reinstatement of senior and low-income families who were abruptly dropped from the program two years ago.

Applications and information about the program can be obtained from county assessors' offices or online at www.oregon.gov/dor/scd.