In 2019, the Assessment Department of Jackson County reassessed the tax value of approximately 296,000 homes. Many minority homeowners saw severe jumps in their property values. Nearly 24,000 properties were assessed at double – or more – their previous assessed values. Stunned, Kansas City homeowners have been scrambling to appeal the assessments, find the dollars they need to pay their increased taxes, remain in their homes, and avoid foreclosure.  
 
The unprecedented increases hit Black and Hispanic neighborhoods particularly hard. Today – on behalf of four neighborhood associations – the ACLU of Missouri sued Jackson County and the Director of the Jackson County Assessment Department, Gail McCann Beatty, for violating the Fair Housing Act.  
 
In Missouri, an Assessor is barred from increasing the value of a residential property by more than 15%, unless she first “conduct[s] a physical inspection of such property.” Knowing this, and despite many properties in the county being marked for an increase of more than 15%, the Jackson County Assessor capped increases at 14.9% for many properties in majority-white neighborhoods rather than conducting a physical inspection of those properties. This same cap was not applied evenly in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.   
 
According to a statistical analysis, in majority-white neighborhoods, 54.5% of properties marked by the assessor’s office for a greater than 15% increase received the benefit of the 14.9% cap.  
 
However, in the majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, just 1.33% of the properties marked for a greater than 15% increase received the benefit of the 14.9% cap.
 
“Longtime Kansas City homeowners are terrified,” said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Their very homes are at risk because of a discriminatory ploy to bring in more tax revenue.”
 
The four neighborhood associations participating in the lawsuit are Westside Neighborhood Association, Vineyard Neighborhood Association, Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, and Washington Wheatley Neighborhood Improvement Association.

Date filed

December 19, 2019

Court

Circuit Court of Jackson, County, Missouri at Kansas City Sixteenth Judicial Circuit

Status

Filed

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