To the Editor:
We have just paid 2016 property taxes on different apartment buildings and the tax increase alone over last year's taxes equates to about an extra $15 per month per apartment unit. The large majority of our units are one bedroom with tenants that have an average income of $30-50K. They are hardworking tenants and not on government assistance. We have had one rent increase on existing tenants in the last 7-8 years and adjust the rents to market value when tenants move out.
There are those that say property owners like us should not complain of tax increases because our assessments went up so our buildings are worth more. However, higher assessments and building values don't pay the increase in taxes, employee salaries, insurance, and material cost increases. We have been in business for over 40 years, pride ourselves on having very clean, well maintained apartments and work hard to maintain a nice, safe neighborhood. Hopefully we can continue to stay in business for many years to come.
If we increase the rents by $15 per month for each apartment unit to cover just the increase in taxes over this past year's taxes and do not include all of our other cost increases, the tax increase alone will force some of our good residents to consider leaving our apartments and leaving Alexandria. All this at a time when the city claims to be concerned about losing affordable housing units.
To many city residents who have higher paying jobs and to retirees with excellent retirement benefits, an extra $15 per month means little. However, $15 per month means a lot to our tenants. The tax increases on privately owned apartment buildings create a paradox. On one hand, increased taxes that force us to increase rents create less affordable housing in Alexandria for some tenants. On the other hand, the city increases taxes in order to foster more affordable housing in Alexandria by subsidizing rents or assisting developers thereby indirectly competing against small businesses like mine and making it harder for us to stay in business. We often hear about the big developers and absentee corporations that own apartment buildings in Alexandria who are only concerned with bottom line profits. However, small businesses like ours collectively provide a large number of affordable housing units that have a significant impact on Alexandria.
Our city leaders need to think about these real situations while planning and controlling the budget. (By the way, since 2010 our city property tax increases alone amount to $82 per month per apartment unit. Again, this is not our total tax, but just the property tax increase over the past six years. That has a direct impact on the cost of rental units in the city. Ask someone who is making $30-50K per year the impact of $82/month on their budget.)
Wilkening Rental Properties, LLC