Boston’s property taxes show modest
gain after 2-year dip
May 23, 2012 |Andrew Ryan
After two years of decline, Boston’s property tax rolls are growing modestly, a boost
driven largely by new construction and commercial properties previously exempt from
taxes, according to an analysis released Tuesday by a municipal watchdog.
The report by the Boston Municipal Research Bureau attributed much of the increase
to a new office tower along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, expiration of a tax
break for the Westin Hotel at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, and the sale
of two Catholic hospitals to a for-profit company.
The analysis also painted Boston as a city with a strong housing stock where properties
have held value better than other parts of the country still struggling after the recession.
Overall, it was an optimistic appraisal of the city’s fiscal health.
“It’s a good sign for Boston’s economy,’’ said Councilor Mark Ciommo of Brighton,
chairman of the council’s Ways and Means Committee. “It’s interesting that commercial
[property] has surged a little more. That’s a good indicator.’’
The analysis used data from tax bills that went out in December, based on property
assessment values of Jan. 1, 2011. The report is a look back at Boston’s property
values over the past year, but it can also be a sign of what may be on the horizon.
In April 2012, sales of detached single-family homes in the Boston area increased 11
percent from the previous year, according to Gregory Vasil, chief executive of the
Greater Boston Real Estate Board.
“The closer you are to the city, the hotter the market is,’’ Vasil said Tuesday. “On the
residential side, we are seeing healthy signs because Boston is still a desirable place to
The tax bill for the average single-family home in Boston rose for the third straight year
to $3,305, increasing by $150, or 4.8 percent. In the metropolitan area, however, the
average Boston homeowner will pay significantly less than their suburban neighbors,
according to the research bureau analysis.
Among the 19 surrounding cities and towns, Boston had the third-lowest tax bill for the
average owner of a single-family home, with only Everett ($2,788) and Chelsea ($2,123)
ranking lower. The municipalities with the highest average tax bill for single-family
homes were Brookline ($13,029) Wellesley ($11,860), and Wayland ($11,279), said the
report. Larger tax bill can also reflect the higher cost of real estate in some
The research bureau determined that 770 new condominiums have been added to the
tax rolls. But the value of condos increased by less than 1 percent, representing the
slowest growth in a decade.
The value of business properties in Boston increased for the first time since the fiscal
year that ended in June 2009. A significant share of the new revenue will be paid by
Steward Health Care System, which purchased Carney Hospital in Dorchester and St.
Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton. Because Steward is a for-profit company, it must
pay $287.3 million in property taxes for the hospitals, which were exempt when owned
by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, said the report.