Every year around this time, District of Columbia property owners receive telling confirmation from their government that life is unfair. The first comes in the form of the new property tax assessments, which were mailed out last week.
The next comes in the form of a press release from the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue, which lists the average house assessments in the city's 56 neighborhoods. For the student of the inequities of modern life, the report makes interesting reading.
The city notes, for example, that the average house in the modest Anacostia neighborhood (a subsection of the larger area east of the river by that name) is assessed at $51,100. The press release then notes that the average house in the Massachusetts Avenue Heights neighborhood (just west of Rock Creek Park, look out for the turrets and minarets) is assessed at $568,022.
In between fall the great majority of D.C. neighborhoods: Mount Pleasant (average assessment, $84,608), Petworth ($63,725) and Chevy Chase ($162,213).
The statement also includes an interesting piece of information that helps explain why the tax burden seems to fall so heavily at times: Only 43.6 percent of all the District's land is taxable. Most of the exempted property is owned by the federal government or nonprofit organizations, neither of which are subject to real estate taxes. If streets and alleys are included in the exempt category, only 34.2 percent of D.C. land is taxable.
The city's 83,800 single-family houses were hit with an average property assessment increase this year of 4.9 percent. By contrast, its 44,800 apartment buildings received a 5.9 percent increase. Its 160 hotels, motels and inns received a 9.1 percent increase, and its 26,300 office buildings and vacant properties received a 10.3 percent increase.
There is some justice however. The more expensive the house, the more property tax is paid by the owner.
Of all the 56 neighborhoods listed on the city's tax rolls, the one hit by the biggest increase was Hawthorne in fashionable upper Northwest with a 16.9 percent average rise. Across town, Anacostia's Barry Farms came in second, with a 14.2 percent average increase.