Senate passes ‘homestead exemption’ bill

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by Jessica Sabbath

The Virginia Senate easily passed a bill Tuesday that would give localities the power to reduce real estate assessments for homeowners, despite a push from the business lobby against it.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which would go to voters in November if approved by both houses, would allow localities to exempt up to 20 percent of a home or farm from real estate assessments. The bill was designed to provide relief to homeowners who saw their real estate taxes skyrocket after the recent housing boom.

The business lobby fought the bill this year. Not only would the relief shift the local tax burden to commercial properties, but businesses are concerned localities would raise other business taxes to make up for lost revenue.

Opponents also argue that the bill would hurt renters. If commercial property owners’ property taxes increased, renters would like make up the difference. 

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