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Christopher Bjorke, Forum Communications Co., Published May 15 2012

Grand Forks Housing Authority again seeks tax breaks

GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks Housing Authority could soon win from the City Council something it has pursued for years: tax exemptions on all its properties.

Terry Hanson, the authority’s executive director, is seeking exemptions worth around $38,000 for 81 properties that include vacant lots, offices and other facilities it owns but does not use as low- and moderate-income housing.

All of the exemption requests have been before the city in past years, but Hanson has always been turned down.

“We are the only housing authority in the state, and I’m told the country, that is taxed,” he said.

He brought the exemption requests again to the council’s Finance and Development Committee on Monday, along with three other exemption requests for properties managed by the Housing Authority but not owned by it.

By the end of a nearly three-hour discussion, some members of the committee supported the idea of recognizing the authority as a public entity and therefore tax-free, as are other entities such as schools or parks. Hanson was asked to bring additional information for the request to the full council’s May 21 meeting.

“Maybe the lights went off with them,” Hanson said of council members’ openness to treating the authority as a public entity.

John Herz, a city assessor, disagreed with Hanson. Herz’s report to the council said the properties are not tax-exempt because they are not used for low- and moderate-income housing and so do not qualify under state law. He also said the authority does not qualify as a public entity.

“These are not used. The key word is ‘used,’ ” Herz said at Monday’s meeting.

Low and moderate-income homes owned by the authority are already tax-exempt.

He also recommended the properties managed by the housing authority be denied tax-exempt status.

Council members Curt Kreun and Eliot Glassheim, both state legislators, said the 2005 law referred to in the report was not meant to deny tax exemptions to housing authorities.Hanson also said that Grand Forks was the exception in the state as a city that does not consider the housing authority to be a public entity.

Kreun, who chairs the authority’s board, said five attorney-general’s opinions have said authorities qualify as such entities.


Christopher Bjorke writes for the Grand Forks Herald


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