For Worcester residents with aging parents or grandparents, deciding between looking into senior assisted living homes or having mom or dad come live with you can be difficult.
Councilor at-large Morris A. Bergman will present a proposal at the Tuesday, Jan. 19, City Council meeting that may make that decision a little easier.
“The trend among family members these days is to oftentimes have an older parent or grandparent move in with you and when people do that, they oftentimes have to put on an addition or an extra bedroom or bathroom,” Bergman said
Bergman will request the city draft a home-rule petition legislating a tax break for Worcester residents who build an addition to their homes to accommodate elderly relatives that come to live with them. [Age eligibility would have to mirror existing city tax exclusions, between 65 and 75, Bergman said.]
“It originated out of the information we all see on a daily basis. Baby boomers are becoming the seniors. They’re living longer and have less money to live on,” Bergman said. “It’s a natural connection to let parents or grandparents to move in. It seems illogical to penalize someone that allows a family member to move in and then taxing them on it.”
According to the proposal, Worcester residents would be allowed to put on an addition for a senior to come live with them, and even though the property value would likely increase with the addition, the resident would not pay additional property taxes until the senior moves out or passes away.
“The point would be that it would encourage people to add on to their house and take the family members with them,” Bergman said. “That would add the advantage of keeping some of these folks that live in Worcester to stay in Worcester, and it keeps families intact.”
Bergman believes the additions would encourage more jobs — painters, carpenters, contractors — and would also increase the value of the property when the senior moves out.
According to John Hill, spokesman for Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. “Councilor Bergman discussed this with the city manager prior to filing the order. He [Augustus] believes this is an interesting idea that deserves serious consideration.”
“Any efforts made to support families accommodating the elderly is certainly worth exploring,” said Councilor at-large Khrystian King.
The residential tax rate is $20.61 per $1,000 assessed valuation and according to the fiscal 2016 budget, the city expects to collect about $270 million in property taxes.
Bergman’s proposal wouldn’t have a significant impact on tax base, City Assessor William Ford said.
“There are similar exemptions in other states like the one [Councilor Bergman] is mentioning, but they’re for people with disabilities and not for senior citizens,” Ford said. “More than likely, he will request a report or he will request that the city solicitor demographic it for a home rule petition.”
“There [are] 351 cities and towns in the state,” Bergman said. “I think it would be a marketing advantage for the city of Worcester where we welcome seniors to stay here and we do so by telling their children and grandchildren that we’re not going to penalize you for adding onto their property by accommodating them to stay.”
According to Bergman, there are other monetary and non-monetary benefits to this proposal for families.
First, the seniors would remain in Worcester and will likely spend money in the city. Next, seniors could also help families with finances. Finally, the presence of a parent or grandparent in the home could not only increase property value, but could serve as a role model or an additional guardian for any children in the home.
“Instead of moving to Holden or Paxton or Auburn where they’re going to get whacked [financially], they’ll instead consider just adding onto their home in Worcester,” Bergman said.
“From a senior’s perspective it’s great. They can move in with a family member. For the family, that’d be great for the grandparent or parent and the children to live together,” he said.
At first glance, state Sen. Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) thinks Bergman’s proposal conceptually could benefit Worcester and its 12 percent of residents over the age of 65, and possibly other municipalities in the state.
“Statewide, we have been looking for a residential-type approach to healthcare for a lot of our seniors. If this could alleviate the need of people to have to go to senior or adult housing, where they’re staying at the home of their family, there could be long-term healthcare cost savings there,” Moore said.
“We think it could enhance the programs offered to seniors because if we’re saving money on one end, we could divert money to better programming to seniors based on residential-type care.”
Moore conceded he would need to research Bergman’s proposal further, but he feels it could make sense for both homeowners and the city.
“I think it’s a great concept. I just don’t know what the cost would be,” Moore said. “In one way, the city is making an investment on future revenue. It’s not necessarily a loss if people aren’t going to build an addition if they don’t get the tax break. If they don’t get the tax break, there’s nothing being built, so there’s no additional revenue coming into the city.”
“Anything we can do to create demand on our housing and keep people in Worcester would be huge,” Bergman said. “Let’s face it, we’ve had flat property value growth over the last two years. We want people to stay in Worcester and want to live in Worcester.”