NEW ORLEANS — Marylyn Melder loves her home on Aubrey Street near the Fairgrounds. She’s been there since 1996, and while she says her neighborhood has changed in recent years, she still knows everybody on her block.
Melder recently got an unexpected postcard in her mail. It was a photo of her own home from someone who lives out of state. It reads:
“I buy houses. I can pay you cash for you home. So please contact me ASAP if you’d like to sell.”
“To send it back to me as the owner of the house… the audacity of this person,” Melder said.
Like many in her area, Melder says she feels like she’s being priced out. After New Orleans’ most recent property value assessment, she says her total land and home value went from around $95,000 to $221,500 for 2020.
“I’m pretty sure that if I tried to put my house on the market for that, I would not get it,” she said.
Melder and others in her position signed a petition Monday requesting the New Orleans Assessor’s office give elderly residents more time to appeal 2020 property assessments that they say are skyrocketing.
Right now, property owners who are 65 or older by December 31, 2019 can apply for an “Age Freeze,” a special assessment level for their homes. The application must get to the assessor's office by Thursday, Aug. 22.
People with disabilities who meet certain income criteria may also qualify for the special assessment. The assessor’s office has application forms available on their website (also available by clicking here). Property owners who qualify must provide their Annual Adjusted Gross Income for the year prior, in this case for 2018.
Those who do not qualify for the Age Freeze but want to contest their valuation have until 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug 19. to appeal. Aug. 19 is when the city's assessment period closes.
Still, elderly residents worry that Aug. 22 is not enough time for those who qualify to apply.
74-year-old Sam F. Williams was one of many who gathered at the new Park Island Brew Coffee Shop on Gentilly Boulevard to sign the petition demanding more time.
"I don't understand how they expect the elderly to afford the money that they're asking for,” Williams said.
Williams has lived in his home since 1989. He said he didn’t receive a letter notifying him of his assessment spiking.
“Thank god I know how to use a computer. If I didn't know how to, I wouldn't have known about this property value increase,” he said.
RELATED: People fear they'll have to leave New Orleans after new property assessment skyrockets home values
Once the forms are properly filled out, home owners can either final a formal appeal online at the assessor’s website, or go to one of three locations in the city to appeal their assessment.
Those locations are the fourth floor of City Hall (1300 Perdido Street), the Algiers Courthouse (225 Morgan Street) or the second floor of the Lakeview Christian Center (5885 Fleur De Lis Drive)
It's what Melder did on Monday. She said she’d taken home the documents, but was still skeptical anything will change.
“I think that’s what they want most people to do is just sell. They talk about gentrification, and me personally I think that’s what it is, but what you gonna do?” she said.
Asessor Erroll Williams said property assessment appeals are not for people who "...think your taxes are too high."
"You should see me because you think the value placed on your property is inaccurate due to estimations on its size, comparable sales or market values," Williams said.
To contest an assessment value, individuals are advised to have an assessment letter and any additional documentation to support their claim, such as a recent appraisal, a builder’s contract, photos or insurance coverage of the property.