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Renter’s tax credit, targeted at New York City, could help north country

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A renter’s tax credit, included in a $2 billion tax cut proposal announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this week, is projected to benefit mainly New York City renters, but also could provide some relief to upstate residents, though many details remain to be seen.

The governor proposed a refundable personal income tax credit for renters with incomes below $100,000, which would provide more than $400 million in relief for 2.6 million renters, according to Cuomo’s office.

And because most, if not all, renters in Jefferson County fall below this income threshold, they likely would be eligible for the credit.

“Most folks in Watertown would be eligible,” said Morris A. Peters, a spokesman for the state Division of the Budget.

The new renter’s credit, which is based loosely on the model of the existing household credit, would provide a base credit that would both increase according to household size and decrease according to income level, according to Mr. Peters.

Those closest to the $100,000 threshold would receive the smallest amount, while those earning less money would receive a larger amount.

As the number of dependents within a household increases, so would the amount of the credit, though that also would be controlled according to income level, Mr. Peters said.

There are 3.3 million renter-occupied housing units in the state, according to the 2010 census, and about 1.7 million New York City renters who would benefit from the renter’s tax credit program, according to Mr. Peters.

The amount of the base credit has not yet been finalized, but is expected to be revealed in the governor’s proposed budget later this month.

In Jefferson County, there are 19,338 renter-occupied units, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Five-Year Estimates.

And with only 2,062 of those units occupied by households making more than $75,000 a year — the highest income category measured in the data set — the vast majority of renters in the area would, in theory, be eligible for the credit.

However, more details of the plan have to be seen before those who work to provide affordable housing in the Watertown area will pass a verdict on the governor’s proposal.

“If you’ve got a family that really needs rental assistance, how are they going to pay rent all year to get a tax credit at the end of the year?” said Gary C. Beasley, executive director of Neighbors of Watertown. “I’m not sure how this will work out. I look forward to learning more about it.”

Rental rates are unusually high in Jefferson County, largely because of the basic allowance for housing stipends that soldiers at Fort Drum receive monthly.

Those stipends are expected to increase in 2014 by as much as 15 percent for some ranks — a figure that is much higher than the military average nationwide.

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