Dogwood Health Trust Invests $850,000 in the Study of Property Tax Assessment Biases in Western North Carolina

Press release from

ASHEVILLE, NC – (November 1, 2012) –  Dogwood Health Trust recently awarded an $850,000 grant to the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) Department of Health and Wellness for their work with Just Accounting for Health (JAfH) to better understand the presence and effects of biases in tax assessment standards across the 18 counties in Western North Carolina.

Just Accounting for Health (JAfH) is a consortium that, in addition to UNCA’s Department of Health and Wellness, includes the Asheville Racial Justice Coalition,nonprofit advocacy organization Strong Towns, and Asheville-based researchers Urban3.

Dogwood Health Trust’s investment in this research follows preliminary studies by Joe Minicozzi and Ori Baber from Urban3, who found that low-income `households were being overvalued in their tax assessments in Western North Carolina, while higher- and middle-income households were being undervalued. This practice results in an additional tax penalty for low-income property owners, and a tax subsidy for higher-income families. The coalition will examine state and local tax policies to identify potential systemic biases and discover how these discrepancies in local property tax policy influences health equity in western North Carolina.

The project will involve extensive analysis of tax procedures in eighteen North Carolina counties over the next eighteen months and will include several community summits focused on identifying actionable solutions. Just Accounting for Health will use the results of these studies, along with feedback from community partners, to develop a toolkit for local advocates and government officials to help them pursue more equitable policies.

In 2020, Buncombe County Government and the City of Asheville both passed resolutions in favor of pursuing reparations efforts and establishing racism as a public health crisis. These resolutions assert that Black people have been denied housing through racist practices in the private realty market—including redlining, steering, blockbusting, denial of mortgages and gentrification—and affirm these governments’ intent to develop recommendations to address the creation of generational wealth and boost economic opportunity in the Black community.

Dr. Aubrianne Rote, Chair of the UNCA Department of Health and Wellness: “The UNC Asheville Department of Health and Wellness is very excited about this opportunity to partner with Urban3, Strong Towns and the Racial Justice Coalition on this important work. We are grateful to Dogwood Health Trust for their investment in this vision and see it as a key opportunity to develop and support the meaningfulness of research for policy and social change for our community in western North Carolina.”

Tre Williams, community liaison for the Racial Justice Coalition: “Property taxes in Buncombe County, like the rest of the country, are highly regressive, meaning people with lower incomes — particularly those in historically redlined areas — pay disproportionately higher rates compared to people with higher incomes. We’re excited to be receiving this grant and to be a part of this project to address and correct these racist, classist inequities.”

Rachel Quednau, program director for Strong Towns: “Done right and used well, property taxes support important public goods, infrastructure and services that contribute to thriving, resilient communities. With the help of this generous grant, we are ready to investigate the flaws and inequities that are preventing that, and work together to restore affected communities.”

Joe Minicozzi, principal of Urban3: “In communities that are serious about these efforts, it is necessary to ensure that government revenue sources are not causing further harm through inequitable application.

Dr. Susan Mims, interim CEO of Dogwood Health Trust: “Dogwood is striving to create a WNC where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive – no exceptions. We are working towards that goal in a number of ways, with diversity, equity and inclusion underlying each of our four strategic priority areas of Housing, Education, Economic Opportunity and Health & Wellness. Within our housing work, affordability is a key focus, so Dogwood is proud to play a role in this important project. We look forward to the benefits our region will realize from Just Accounting for Health’s research and recommendations.”

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