The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, Sept. 22, unanimously agreed to reduce property taxes for manufactured home owners whose housing stability is threatened by rising real estate values.
“This resolution does a lot,’’ said Chair Deborah Kafoury. “It lowers taxes. It addresses a disproportionate and inequitable financial burden. And, it’s going to help people be more stable and secure in their housing by keeping the cost of owning and living in a manufactured home affordable.
“It might feel like a small tweak to our tax structure, but it’s going to make a real difference for thousands of households in Multnomah County.”
The effort to keep manufactured homes affordable for people with low or fixed incomes dates back more than a decade, as County Commissioners worked with legislators to ease tax burdens for people who own their manufactured home but not the land underneath. Under state statute, all property is taxable, and manufactured homes are taxed as personal property unless otherwise exempt.
Previously, taxes were canceled on manufactured homes valued at $38,000 or less. But if a property valued at even $1 above $38,000, that owner would face a full annual tax bill of as much as $1,000. Rising values threatened to push more and more owners over that $38,000 threshold.
On Thursday, the Board approved exempting the first $50,000 of value and levying taxes only on the amount above $50,000.
The average median income for a manufactured home’s owner is just $38,000, compared to $73,000 for other County residents, Jayapal said. Owners of these homes more likely to be people of color, to speak Spanish at home, work in low-wage jobs and be single parents. They are also among those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re lowering taxes for the people who need that relief the most,” Jayapal said.
There are 4,917 mobile homes in Multnomah County. County Assessor Michael Vaughn said all of those owners would benefit. The average value of a manufactured home is $40,740, with the median value about $29,280. Stegmann said the values show the resolution changes will have a meaningful impact now and well into the future as values rise. It would particularly benefit East County, where more people live in manufactured homes.
“Absolutely there is more we can do, we must do, but this is a great step,” Commissioner Stegmann said. “We are moving and we’re making a significant difference.”
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson agreed.
“The more I learn about this, the more I’m supportive,” she said.
When Vega Pederson was a state representative, she said, a housing advocate once told her a manufactured home was either the first place people live when they come out of homelessness or the last place they live before they become homeless.
“We need to make sure we’re protecting this resource,’’ Vega Pederson said.
The exemptions approved Thursday would reduce tax revenue collected by Multnomah County by $350,000, and up to $3 million in total across taxing districts.
“The benefits to the people impacted will be profound and will more than make up for any loss of revenue here. And this is a piece of a much larger puzzle along the continuum of homelessness to permanent housing,” said Commissioner Sharon Meieran.
Cameron Herrington, program manager at the nonprofit Living Cully Coalition, submitted written testimony supporting the resolution.
“Mobile home parks provide some of the most affordable housing in Multnomah County,” Herrington wrote. “This measure will help ensure that low-income residents are able to stay in their homes and enjoy the tight-knit communities that mobile home park residents forge with their neighbors.”
Chair Kafoury noted this was just one step toward a more affordable community.
“These are really vulnerable people and anything we can do to help them stay in our homes and not end up in homelessness is worth our time,” she said.