Councilman James E. Taylor (Ward 8) will introduce an Ordinance that requests the City of Providence and the City Tax Collector to suspend all tax sales for this fiscal year (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021) at this evenings City Council meeting. The Ordinance is co-sponsored by President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), and Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13).
As of yesterday, 8,344 Providence residents have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Due to this ongoing global pandemic small businesses are shuttering, unemployment rates are still at high levels, and housing insecurity is becoming a greater risk for residents.
“As a City, we have an obligation to our residents to protect their interests, and with so many residents out of work, they have to make choices between food, mortgage, and taxes. Although we are asking the Tax Collector to suspend tax sales, nothing in this Ordinance shall in any way impact the Collector’s ability to collect interest on unpaid taxes as prescribed by law. Our residents and our neighbors need some relief, and the fear of losing their home to a tax sale is a relief that we as a City can provide,” stated Councilman James E. Taylor.
A property is subject to a “tax sale” when the taxes are seriously delinquent, and the city asks an interested third party to pay the taxes. In exchange for the payment, the city puts a tax lien on the property in favor of the party who paid the taxes. The property owner has a year and a day to pay the third party the back taxes and fees. If they cannot, the third party has the right to take title to the property through the court. The proceeding is called “foreclosing the right of redemption.”
Council President Pro Tempore Michael Correia stated, “Although we know the City is facing serious financial difficulties, we need to put the needs of our residents first. We don’t yet have a budget for this fiscal year and continue to operate on the previous year’s budget. Tax sales do provide some relief to the budget, but it’s very small. The City will be made whole in the following fiscal year, and residents will have the time they need to find the financial assistance they may need to keep their properties.”
The proposed Ordinance being presented tonight would suspend all authority for a tax sale pursuant to the Providence Code of Ordinances. While the Collector may utilize his state-mandated authority to still move forward with a tax sale for the current fiscal year, the passage of this ordinance removes all authority granted to the Collector by the Council to do so.
“Last year only 100 residential properties were part of the fiscal year 2020 tax sale,” stated Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. “Residents have a year and a day to pay the back taxes and fees to retain ownership, but during these uncertain financial times we need to help where we can. I hope the Collector and the City will agree that we can delay a tax sale by one year to provide homeowners the time they need to pay their back taxes and provide the security that these residents need.”
Councilor Rachel Miller shared, “I have spoken to many residents who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The stimulus of $600.00 that was given weekly to unemployed residents has ended, and with the current COVID-19 aid package stuck in the United States Senate, our neighbors are trying to make ends meet. As an elected leader, I feel we have an obligation to support our residents when we can, and I urge the City and the Collector to consider suspending this year’s tax sale to help keep our residents in their homes without the added fear of losing it due to their inability to pay their taxes.”
The Ordinance will be sent to the Council’s Committee on Ordinances for further review and discussion.