Does Philadelphia Need Gentrification Relief?

We all know that Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and that the constant push-and-pull between forces that would preserve those neighborhoods and their identities and the forces that would remake those neighborhoods into something new. And some fear that City Hall’s recent reassement of property values could accelerate the latter process, by dramatically raising taxes on longtime homeowners.

Thus: “Gentrification relief.”

A City Council bill would give a property-tax break to longtime homeowners in rapidly gentrifying areas. People who have lived in their homes for more than 10 years, and have seen their assessments more than triple, would be eligible for the gentrification relief.

Sounds good right? NewsWorks offers the example of a woman facing a $3,000 tax hike who would instead face just a $300 rise. So what’s the problem? Well, even well-off owners of homes originally bought for a high prices would also be eligible for the tax break.

Under state law, Philadelphia can’t use a “means test” to decide if a resident deserves the gentrification tax relief based on their age and income. That means wealthy homeowners could benefit from it. For example, a Council analysis found that one resident who bought a house for $725,000 would be eligible for the break.

The Inquirer adds:

Mayor Nutter has pledged that no one will lose a home because of AVI. The best weapon he and City Council could wield in that effort may be so-called gentrification tax relief.

That cap would last 10 years or until the home is sold. Many homeowners who would qualify live in neighborhoods that have grown thanks to the city’s 10-year tax abatement on rehabs and new construction, a sore point for longtime residents who never got a similar break.