- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp yesterday said she wants to exempt property sold for less than $500,000 from a tax increase Mayor Anthony A. Williams wants to impose on property sales and purchases.

“I will be looking at not hitting the residential [sale] under $500,000 because [of] what it does for people who are trying to buy their house and particularly on that lower level,” said Mrs. Cropp, at-large Democrat who is running for mayor.

The higher taxes “may prevent them from buying that house. If in fact we’re looking at improving housing policies, in our mind it makes it harder for affordable-house buyers to buy houses.”

Mr. Williams’ proposal, presented in his fiscal 2007 budget, would raise the deed and recordation tax from 1.1 percent to 1.5 percent. It would bring the city about $47 million in additional revenues in 2007.

Mrs. Cropp also said she would look into exempting first-time home buyers from the tax increase.

Several council members said they would support such an amendment.

“I absolutely agree,” said council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, who is not seeking re-election. “I’ve always said that raising the deed and recordation tax raises the bar on home ownership.”

Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, said he does not favor raising the tax and will be interested in seeing the compromises Mrs. Cropp presents.

“I think the whole budget is a work in progress,” he said.

Other members who said they would consider amendments to the bill include Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat who is running for mayor, and Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

The mayor’s proposal came two weeks after the council rejected a 0.1 percent raise for the same tax to take effect in 2008 as fall-back funding for school modernization.

The council instead approved an amended version of the bill that allows for a 0.1 percent increase in commercial property deed and recordation taxes.

The mayor’s proposal would not affect commercial property sales.

Revenue from the deed tax increase would go toward funding and implementing recommendations from the mayor’s affordable-housing task force.

Mrs. Cropp’s announcement was made during the council’s monthly breakfast meeting, open yesterday to reporters for the first time since she became chairman in 1997. The traditionally private breakfasts are held before legislative meetings.

Mrs. Cropp agreed to open the meetings, at least temporarily, as council members Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat who is running for council chairman, and Vincent Orange, Ward 5 Democrat, who is running for mayor, are drafting legislation to prohibit the private meetings.


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