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Bill Would Help Taxpayers, Habitat for Humanity

February 16, 2015

By Morgan White
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Delinquent property owners could settle their tax bills by donating their property to Habitat for Humanity or a similar nonprofit, under legislation moving through the General Assembly.

The Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity has pushed for the measure (HB 2173), which won unanimously approval from the House of Delegates last week.

Known as the Habitat Bill, it would enable delinquent taxpayers to exchange their property for the taxes they owe, explained the legislation’s sponsor, Del. Robert Orrock Sr., R-Thornburg.

“When the taxes exceed the value of the property, it’s awfully hard to get the property owner to come forward to do anything with it because he’s going to owe more than whatever he gets for the property,” Orrock said.

He represents the 54th House District, which includes parts of Caroline and Spotsylvania counties. Orrock said a few situations in his district have underscored how donating a house in arrears on taxes to Habitat for Humanity can be a win for everybody – the property owner, the local government and the nonprofit group.

“The delinquent taxpayer wins because he gets out from underneath and walks away at least clean. The county or city wins because they’re going to get properties back on the tax roll. And the Habitat for Humanity type group wins because they now have properties,” Orrock said.

“They can just go forward with the construction project because they didn’t have to buy the land for it.”

The Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity has endorsed the bill.

“This legislation will be particularly helpful to the greater Fredericksburg community, including the City, Stafford, King George, and Spotsylvania Counties, as condemned or undesired land can be put to good use in building Habitat homes, or other non-profit builders, with far less red tape helping the affiliate to achieve its 2020 vision,” the group said last week in a press release.

The Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity’s 2020 vision is to construct 20 news homes by that year. This would increase affordable housing in the area and would contribute to a healthy housing market. Habitat officials say the initiative would attract businesses and serve as a catalyst to transform neighborhoods and lives.

The Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity was one of 10 affiliates recognized by Habitat for Humanity International for legislative advocacy. (There are more than 1,500 Habitat affiliates in the U.S.)

HB 2173 passed the House 100-0 on Feb. 10. It is now before the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill is being co-sponsored by seven other legislators, including House Speaker William Howell of Fredericksburg.

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How to Help

To give to the Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity or to become a volunteer, visit www.FredHab.org