One common obstacle that pops up when a Philadelphia neighborhood begins to revitalize is: what will happen to the property taxes once the City discovers this place isn’t rock bottom anymore?
It’s a valid question and for the last several years the answer was: “What revitalization?” As in: the City was slow to detect, much less alter, the property taxes on any given lot unless it was in an area where the City was likely to act faster to capture increases in value (i.e. Chestnut Hill). Since AVI is coming, a dozen neighborhoods that have seen growth in property quality and value are now stricken with fear. “My taxes are in the 3-figure range. What will happen now?”
Darrell Clarke may have an answer for this, and it stems from a law that now-incarcerated former state senator Vincent Fumo passed ages ago. This package of tax alterations is something we like to call the Gentrification Protection Plan.
If Council gets this passed, it could drive a severe blow into anti-gentrification groups like Concerned Citizens for Point Breeze. The face-off at zoning meetings between community residents who bought a rowhome at 2012 prices vs. a homeowner who bought at 1975 prices and has hit the qualifications for a homestead exemption could finally put arguments like this to bed.
Given the low number of Sheriff Sales in Philadelphia keeping tens of thousands of Philadelphia properties locked in the hands of dead people and entities unwilling to pay any tax, this particular debate that has raged since the 10 year Real Estate Tax Abatement was first introduced. A large amount of money that should of been going into Philadelphia’s coffers to pay for City services has been entirely absent plus it has helped to keep blighted property seemingly forever blighted.
Then there has been inertia against redeveloping vacant and blighted property in several Philadelphia neighborhoods since we use the community zoning process (which has only been around since the 1970s). Communities full of residents with stretched budgets are likely to be very skeptical about endorsing development that is likely to raise their property taxes. Spot zoning has been used before to set those arguments aside, but that is an extremely unfair (and illegal) way to trump all of those issues for the sake of putting a parcel of land back to use, even if it has a positive outcome.
So basically, Philadelphia government, and Philadelphians themselves, help preserve and protect blight in some pockets of the city–far better than the Historical Commission can preserve our historical treasures. That argument needs to be tossed aside with a homestead exemption and put to bed, once and for all.