City Commissioner Boog Highberger said this morning that he will actively begin to lobby the legislature to increase the state's mortgage registration tax.
Highberger said he'll seek an increase in the tax - which is paid every time someone buys a home and files a mortgage with the county's Register of Deeds - in order to provide the city with funding to implement affordable housing programs.
"I think using this tax for affordable housing programs is a very common model around the country," Highberger said as part of a meeting of the city's Housing Needs Task Force, which he chairs.
The current tax is 26 cents for every $100 worth of mortgage that is taken out on a piece of property. All but a penny of the tax goes to the county's general fund, while the one cent goes towards a state historic preservation fund. The 26 cent rate is charged in every county in the state.
Highberger said he wants a bill that would allow individual counties or cities to add onto that tax, if they agree to use the new tax revenue to fund a housing trust fund that would provide assistance to people in need of affordable housing.
How much of a tax increase the city will ask for hasn't been determined yet. But the Housing Needs Task Force said it wants to establish a housing trust fund that would receive $500,000 per year in operating funds.
Some members of the task force said they were opposed to a mortgage registration tax, and predicted that it would not receive legislative approval.
"The political reality is that it would be an uphill climb at best to get something passed," said Bill Yanek, a representative of the Lawrence Board of Realtors, who also is a member of the task force. "You could argue that this goes at cross purposes. If you want to increase housing opportunities, why increase the cost of purchasing a home? That's what this would do."
Highberger said he'll begin working with city staff members to craft a bill and seek a local legislator to introduce it. He said the bill likely would have to be introduced by the first week in February to have a chance to be heard during this year's legislative session.