(For information on the approval of the homestead exemption in 1934, click here.)
In 1980, Florida voters increased the homestead exemption to $25,000, and in 2006, voters approved an increase to $50,000. Current research shows that homestead exemptions help address inequities in Florida’s property tax code. Typically, without the exemption, counties over-assess less expensive homes compared to more expensive ones. Furthermore, Black and Latina/o homeowners tend to owe higher property tax bills than white homeowners in nearby neighborhoods because counties over-assess their properties due — in large part — to a long history of systemic racism in assessment practices. However, homeowners do not receive the tax preferences automatically. They must apply and provide proof that a home is their primary residence. Unfortunately, even in areas where homeowners can apply for the exemption online, the take-up rate among Black and Latina/o owners and owners of lower-priced properties is below the rate for wealthy and/or white homeowners.
Although buying a home in Florida opens the door to benefits like the homestead exemption, this does not address the fact that homeownership has been put out of reach for many families of color by long-running disparities in housing policies and mortgage lending. Moreover, crucial differences in intergenerational wealth have afforded many white families sizable inheritances that they can put toward a down payment on a home — an advantage enjoyed less often by people of color.