Commission denies Housing Authority tax exempt status

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The Scotts Bluff County Commissioners Monday night denied a tax exempt request for low income housing recently purchased by the Scotts Bluff County Housing Authority.

Housing Authority Executive Director Nancy Bentley says the 15 units north of the Westmoor pool qualified for tax exempt status under state law because they were purchased with a land use restriction agreement for only low income workers and are wholly owned by the Housing Authority. Bentley said the intent was to sell five houses to low income workers on a rent to sale basis by August 1st with the rest of the units available as low income rentals.

But Commissioner Mike Marker questioned why simply a change in ownership from Crown West to the Housing Authority would allow for the tax exempt status. He and the other commissioners were also confused that the entire property, assessed at $1.1 million, was purchased by the Housing Authority for $1,500. They also questioned how the five homes would be sold for around $20,000 but then likely be assessed at their true market value of $80-90,000.

Bentley said the commissioners did not understand how affordable housing works and would appeal the Commission's decision to TERC, a state appeals board. Marker said there was not enough information to justify tax exempt status, adding the situation was not fair to other similar property owners in the area. Marker said the request "did not sit well with him" and even said it "sounds like a scam."

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