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 be.’’
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 communities.
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.
The value of office towers increased slightly in the last year, but it came with an interesting twist. The downtown Financial District remains home to the city’s largest cluster of office towers, but property there dipped in value for the third straight year because of a vacancy rate of almost 20 percent.
But the value of office towers soared in the Back Bay by $99 million, or nearly 4 percent. That reflects a vacancy rate of barely 6 percent.
The increase in the value of business and residential properties may be modest in comparison to previous booms, when growth hit 15 to 20 percent. But it is still important, said Ronald W. Rakow, the city’s assessor.
“It speaks to the fiscal stability of Boston and our tax base being healthy,’’ Rakow said. “We still rely on the property tax for two-thirds of our revenue.’’