In Maine the housing affordability crisis is complex, particularly for our seniors. One part of the problem is that rising home values are raising property tax valuations, which become tougher and tougher burdens for our seniors — many of whom live on fixed, low incomes. In response to this, after many years of advocating to help seniors to stay in their homes, last year I was able to secure funding for the revival of the State Property Tax Deferral Program in my role as a member of the Appropriations Committee. I’m hopeful that this program will help seniors stay in their homes. I’d like to share some information on the program, so that eligible Maine seniors can meet the application deadline of April 1.

The State Property Tax Deferral Program allows certain individuals to defer, or postpone, payment of the property taxes on their homesteads. While the taxes are being deferred, the state reimburses the municipality for those taxes. This way, the tax revenue for the municipality isn’t lost. Also, the state places a lien on the homestead as security for the taxes paid, plus interest. Then, the deferred tax, plus interest from the lien, is required to be repaid to the state by the individual or their estate when the property owner passes away, moves, sells the property or moves the property (such as a mobile or floating home) out of Maine.

To be eligible for the program, the property owner must be at least 65 years old or unable to work due to a disability. Additionally, the property owner must have an income of less than $40,000 and liquid assets of less than $50,000 (or $75,000 if the property owner is filing a joint application). In Maine, there are more than 300,000 Mainers over the age of 65, so the potential impact of this program can’t be overstated. To qualify under the disability section, the property owner must have been determined by a state or federal government agency to have a permanent and total impairment or condition that prevents them from being employed. There are property qualifications, too. The applicant must own and occupy the property as their principal residence, and they must be receiving a homestead exemption on the property. Information on the Homestead Exemption Program can be found at www.maine.gov/revenue/faq/homestead-exemption-program.

To apply for the program, the property owner must file an application with their local municipal assessor between Jan. 1 and April 1. The online application is available at www.maine.gov/revenue/tax-return-forms-property-tax. If approved, the property owner does not need to re-apply for the program each year, as long as there is no change in circumstances that might lead to disqualification or removal. If the property owner’s application is rejected, they can file an appeal of the denial with the State Board of Property Tax Review within 30 days of receiving the notice from Maine Revenue Services. If you have questions, please contact the Property Tax Division at (207) 624-5600 or [email protected] I’ll also be giving a presentation on the program on Friday, Jan. 28. from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Saco Community Center, 75 Franklin St. in Saco. Please register at www.sacorec.com. If you need help registering, please contact Amelia Meier at (207) 283-3139 or [email protected].

While this program doesn’t solve the whole problem, I know that it will provide real relief for many people. I remain committed to finding more solutions to help our Maine seniors.

As always, I am honored to represent you in the State House. If you ever need assistance, or want to share your ideas and thoughts, please contact me at (207) 287-1515 or [email protected]

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