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Bill could freeze property taxes of longtime homeowners

When you hear the word gentrification, you may think home improvement or neighborhood revitalization, but some fear it will also mean higher property taxes and displacement of longtime residents.

Beacon Hill resident, Lurden Barrientes, has seen his share of renovation, for sale signs and goodbyes.

"A lot of construction and rebuilding houses and selling them for more money," Barrientes said.

"Some of that transition is good, but you don't want to improve a neighborhood by forcing all the neighbors out," said District 123 State Representative, Diego Bernal.

He knows neighborhood improvement comes a cost.

Affordable homes become unaffordable when rising values increase property taxes.

"It was their neighborhood and if they get priced out because of the tax increases, then it's fundamentally inequitable and unfair and wrong," said Beacon Hill homeowner, Kathryn Henderson.

"No one should suffer the indignity of being taxed out of a house they own," Bernal said. "That specific population; people who are about to lose their house because of taxes, that's what our bill is for."

Bernal plans to file this bill in November in advance of the spring 2019 legislative session, that if passed, would allow for so-called housing anchors or long time residents to avoid being taxed out of their homes.

"If you want to sell your house for way more than you bought it for, go ahead that's great," Bernal said. "If you want to stick around, you should be allowed to do that."

Here's how the proposed bill would work: If your home has been owner occupied for at least 15 years and your property tax payments have gone up at least 120% during that time, your property taxes would freeze.

"If housing prices get brought up through influx from wealthier people, then we need to make sure we're still protecting the right for people who were historically residents of that neighborhood to be able to stay," Hernandez said.

"Police will tell you that stable neighborhoods are safer, the schools will tell you that stable neighborhoods have better educational outcomes and that it has a bleed over effect to everybody else," Bernal said.

If the bill passes, it would mean less property tax money down the road for education.

"The question also assumes that all the money in the budget is already spoken for and can't be touched," Bernal said. "There's lots of things that the state spends money on that we could be spending on education and helping people lower their taxes."

If you want to weigh in on the inequality in San Antonio, you can email our Silent Crisis Team: silentcrisis@news4sa.com or call 210-366-0711.

You can follow April Molina on Facebook or Twitter

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