CITY COUNCIL, PARTNERS ANNOUNCE $7.6 MILLION INVESTMENT TO HELP HOMEOWNERS CLEAR THEIR TANGLED TITLES 

In Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, News by PHL Council

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PHILADELPHIA — City Councilmembers, city officials and non-profit partners today announced a $7.6 Million investment to help Philadelphia residents clear issues with tangled titles that impact more than 10,000 Philadelphia residential properties.

Using funds from City Council’s Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, this investment will enable four Philadelphia legal assistance agencies — Community Legal Services (CLS), Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA), Philly VIP and the Senior Law Center — to greatly expand their service capacity, increasing the number of residents they are able to provide with legal assistance during the time-consuming, costly process of clearing a tangled title.

“There are currently thousands and thousands of homes and properties in Philadelphia where the titled are tangled, and property owners lack a clean title to the home,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “This infusion of city money – through Council’s Neighborhood Preservation Initiative – can help thousands of property owners clean up their title and their claims to owning the home.”

Philly VIP estimates that without subsidized legal counsel, fee waivers, or other public assistance, the cost of remedying a tangled title can be significant: about $9,200 for a home valued at the median of $88,800.

As highlighted by the recent efforts of Philadelphia Register of Wills Tracey L. Gordon and Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large), when a property’s title becomes “tangled,” residents living in their homes do not have clear legal title to their property, often resulting in major problems in upkeeping, improving, transferring or simply being able to afford the home. Homes with tangled titles can fall into disrepair and become abandoned, often contributing to neighborhood blight.

A 2021 report by the Pew Research Center estimated that Philadelphia has over 10,407 tangled titles, affecting 2% of the city’s 509,258 residential properties. Philadelphia’s tangled properties are collectively worth over $1.1 billion, representing a significant amount of family wealth.

“Philadelphians have called for equity and inclusion, and expanding generational wealth and property ownership are crucial to achieving this goal,” said Councilmember Gilmore Richardson. “This is why investments like City Council’s Neighborhood Preservation Initiative are essential to providing residents with the financial and legal support they desperately need to combat one of the biggest threats to generational wealth and home equity — a tangled title.”

At today’s press conference, officials also heard from Mr. Bobby Blanton, a Philadelphia homeowner, describing his own difficulties in securing a clean, untangled title to his property, and how clearing his title with legal assistance impacted his household.

Wednesday’s announcement is part of a larger collaboration across government agencies to streamline and simplify the process of clearing tangled titles in Philadelphia. By working closely with city offices such as the Register of Wills, courts, non-profit legal partners, and legislative partners in Harrisburg, City Council hopes to drastically reduce the number of tangled properties in the city and educate residents about estate planning so far fewer properties become tangled in the future.

Council President Clarke and Councilmember Gilmore Richardson were joined at today’s press conference by Council’s Whip Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), along with Councilmembers Cindy Bass (8th District) and Kendra Brooks (At Large). The Councilmembers were joined as well by Register of Wills Tracey L. Gordon, Melissa Long, the city’s deputy director of Housing and Community Development, and leaders from the four non-profit agencies who work on a daily basis to help residents clear tangled titles.

Residents with tangled titles should call the the Save Your Home Philly Hotline is 215-334-4663.

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