The Indiana Tax Court has ruled that Housing Partnerships, Inc. Rental Program qualifies for property tax exemption.

In its August 4, 2020 decision, the court upheld the determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review (IBTR), concluding that “substantial and reliable evidence supports the Indiana Board’s determination that Housing Partnerships’ properties qualified for a charitable purposes [property tax] exemption.”  The IBTR had ruled in favor of Housing Partnerships, Inc. in June, 2018.  The IBTR decision stated that “HPI proved that its scattered-site housing was owned and exclusively occupied and used for charitable purposes” and ordered that “HPI be granted an exemption for those parcels for each year under appeal.”  Bartholomew County had appealed that decision to the tax court.

“We are grateful for the Court’s decision, and pleased to have final resolution on this issue,” said Mark Lindenlaub, HPI’s executive director.  “The cost of the county’s decision to deny that our affordable rental housing program qualifies for property tax exemption has been enormous.  We have incurred over $200,000 in legal fees, plus interest on the money we’ve had to borrow, to prove we qualify for property tax exemption.  That money, plus hundreds of hours of staff effort, could have been much better invested in our community to help families access safe, decent affordable housing.”

After being granted property tax exemption in 2002 and 2004 by the county assessor’s office, HPI relied on the property tax exemption decisions to set budgets and invest in new affordable rental housing in Bartholomew County.  The county reversed its determination in 2006, and HPI was forced to pay unbudgeted property taxes and fees during the lengthy appeal process.  Unable to raise rents because of its long-term funding commitments, HPI was forced to borrow money and sell several properties to keep the agency afloat.

The court’s decision means that the county will have to refund HPI the taxes it collected, plus interest.  Lindenlaub said the money will be used to pay off the loans the agency took out during its legal fight.

The shortage of safe, affordable housing in Bartholomew County has been well documented for decades.  This chronic housing shortage affects vulnerable families in our community each day—families are unable to pay for basic needs due to high housing costs, move out of domestic violence situations, successfully overcome addictions, or transition to the community from institutional facilities.  HPI’s Rental Housing Program has been the housing solution for people in all of these situations.

Since 1989, HPI, now part of Thrive Alliance, has worked alongside local elected officials, business, and hundreds of volunteers to build safe, affordable, and decent housing in and around Columbus.  Working together, HPI has attracted over $14 million in grants and an estimated $35 million in private investments to create over 500 safe, affordable homes. These homes have served lower-income families and residents with specific needs including seniors, people with disabilities, survivors of domestic violence, single-parent families, and families affected by addiction.

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