In Council News, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, News, Nicolas O'Rourke by Jamie Gauthier

PHILADELPHIA – Today, City Council gave final approval to Bill No. 240059, Bill No. 240060, Bill No. 240061 and Resolution No. 240068. These pieces of legislation are part of Councilmember Gauthier’s Defying Displacement campaign.

The bills and resolution now head to Mayor Parker’s desk before becoming law.

Bill No. 240059, introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), entitles homeowners within the eligible income range to a refund or forgiveness on property tax increases that result from a tax rate increase or their home’s assessment increasing. This bill was part of the budget agreement negotiated between City Council and Mayor Parker and was included in Minority Leader Kendra Brooks’s Our Philly Neighborhoods package.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, Chair of City Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless said, “Thank you to my City Council colleagues for recognizing the importance of protecting low-income homeowners from displacement. Homeownership is the foundation of the American dream. Dramatic property tax increases threaten to snatch generational wealth away from the Philadelphians who need it the most. With another round of property assessments around the corner, we can now say that help is on the way!”

Councilmember Gauthier’s bill freezes property taxes at their current level for homeowners within the eligible income range. Per state law, this bill sets “low income” eligibility at the maximum allowable income for the state PACENET pharmaceutical assistance program, which is about $33,000 per year for a single-person household and $41,500 for married taxpayers.

“Thanks to Councilwoman Gauthier’s hard work, Philadelphia is the first municipality to take advantage of my bill allowing local taxing authorities to enact a property tax freeze for low-income homeowners,” said State Rep. Jared Solomon, who introduced legislation that makes this tax freeze possible. “Seniors and our most vulnerable are struggling with paying for prescription drugs and groceries, and this allows them to stay in their homes.”

Solomon praised the vote as a great example of the city and the state working together to make areal difference. “This is proof that Harrisburg and Philadelphia can row together in the same direction to make a tangible difference in peoples’ lives,” he said.

“Property tax relief for working families is an important part of the ‘Our Philly Neighborhoods’ platform we introduced in April,” said Minority Leader Kendra Brooks (At-Large). “The Low-Income Property Tax Freeze provides support for low-income homeowners to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, and it helps to shift our city’s tax burden off the shoulders of working families.”

Bill co-sponsor Minority Whip Nicolas O’Rourke (At-Large) said, “”The Councilmember and her team have been sounding the alarm, pointing out that homeowners in the Third District saw the highest number of property tax increases in the last round of assessments, and their vigilance has led to this key bill passing before assessments are issued this year. The Low-Income Tax Freeze is a clear example of how we can serve the people, and I was glad to co-sponsor this legislation.”

Bill No. 240060 bolsters protections against housing discrimination for housing assistance program participants by making the following edits to the Fair Practice Ordinance:

  • Explicitly identifies rental vouchers such as PHA’s Housing Choice “Section 8” voucher as an example of a “housing assistance program” protected from discrimination.
  • Outlines in more detail that it is illegal to communicate and advertise that vouchers cannot be used to rent or buy a property.
  • Prohibits property owners from refusing or restricting availability, services, or repairs in a way that would prevent a voucher holder from accessing a unit.
  • Prohibits property owners from purposely failing to complete necessary paperwork to process rental vouchers in a timely manner.
  • Allows aggrieved renters to take immediate legal action if they receive private legal assistance.
  • Instructs the Pennsylvanian Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) to provide tenants with a Notice of Right to Sue if the commission cannot complete their investigation within 100 days.
  • Makes appeal decisions more accessible for tenants by extending the judicial review period.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said, “Today City Council strengthened protections for residents using housing vouchers, so we can get working families into homes. And we gave Philadelphians the power to compel the City to follow its own laws and spend density bonus payments on critically needed affordable housing projects. Together, these two actions will help us stabilize our communities and make sure every resident has the safe, stable, and affordable home they need to thrive!”

Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance already prohibits landlords and property managers from discriminating against persons based on the source of income they use to rent or purchase property. However, a local study found that 67% of landlords citywide refuse to accept housing vouchers. In low-poverty neighborhoods, this number jumps to 83%.

Discrimination against tenants using housing vouchers is so prevalent that many tenants have no choice but to give up their vouchers if they want to find a place to live. Surrendering their voucher means tenants give up hundreds of dollars in rental assistance each month which they are entitled to by law.

Bill No. 240061 and Resolution No. 240068 submit for the approval or disapproval of the qualified electors of the City of Philadelphia an amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter that increases the minimum amount that must be appropriated to the Housing Trust Fund in the City’s operating budget each year. The ballot measure would appear on the ballot during the May 2025 primary election.

If this charter change is enacted, the amount of money the City receives from “payments in lieu” must be added to the Housing Trust Fund the following year as new and additional deposits on top of the City’s other allocation requirements. For example, if there are $5 million worth of density bonus payments in 2024, the FY26 Housing Trust Fund budget must increase by $5 million.

There is a density bonus offered for developers who include price-restricted affordable housing in their development, but this density bonus can also be received by submitting a “payment in lieu of providing affordable housing” to the City of Philadelphia.

According to the City Code, these payments are meant to augment the City’s Housing Trust Fund, the primary local funding source used for affordable housing programs and projects. However, not once since this “payment in lieu” option began has these density bonuses led to a proportionate increase in the Housing Trust Fund.

This means that the neighborhoods where over-scaled development happens are not receiving the affordable housing benefits they are entitled to and that affordable housing programs citywide remain underfunded.

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