Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Alaskan Homesteader Ousted Due to Unpaid Property Taxes
Jimmy Lockhart's efforts to fight for grandfather rights on land he's homesteaded since the 1940s have so far been denied.
An Anchorage man says the city is forcing him out of his home because of unpaid property taxes on land that he's homesteaded for over 50 years. It's a case that some say points to the need for a more diversified tax base.
When 83-year-old Jimmy Lockhart came to Alaska in the late 1940s, he had a dream of building a good life and a home over on Randolph Street in Anchorage. He created his home with his own two hands and it’s now in danger of being lost to foreclosure because he can't afford to pay his property taxes.
There's nothing but pride and joy when Jimmy Lockhart talks about his longtime home. But that joy is turning into frustration for a man who has put his heart and soul into the place he built, all because of property taxes he can’t afford.
“It started out [at] about $5,000, now it’s up to $16,000,” said Lockhart—$16,847 to be exact. With a fixed income from his social security check, Lockhart's effort to fight for grandfather rights on the land he has homesteaded since the 1940s has so far been denied.
“That don't work too good with the municipality. They don't read those things,” said Lockhart.
Mayor Sullivan’s spokesperson Sarah Erkmann said in a statement that Lockhart did receive a senior exemption in 2010 and that along with residential exemptions totaled $170,000.
But the value of his property exceeds the exemptions and outstanding taxes, and so his house is being foreclosed.
The Sullivan administration said this case shows Anchorage’s need to add more options to how the city gets taxes so Alaskans who have paid off their houses won't be put out on the streets.
With longtime Alaskans like Jimmy losing their homes because of property taxes, many question what can be done to adjust the tax base. Some Anchorage Assembly members say the solution could involve a sales tax.
“Whenever tax payers have the ability to control how much tax they want to pay, I think it’s a good thing,” said Anchorage Assembly member Adam Trombley.
“With a property tax you don't have that leeway. You’re going to pay that or else you are going to lose your home. The nice thing about a sales tax [is] if you have hard times or [a] hard month you’re able to control how much tax you spend because you are able to control how much you purchase.”
Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson said a sales tax has been put before the Anchorage community many times in the past, and only 30 percent of voters were in favor in its last round at the polls. “I can't really say it’s a solution,” she said.
Even so, the change in the tax base would be too late to save Jimmy Lockhart’s home.
“I feel real bad because this is what I was going to retire in. Now you’re getting pushed out,” said Lockhart.
His home on Randolph Street is part of a list of nine properties that will be sold on June 16 in a city foreclosed property sale. Lockhart said he is not giving up and will fight legally to keep it.
In the meantime, assembly members said the discussion over diversifying taxes, including a sales tax, will be considered to ease the financial burden on Anchorage residents.