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CITY COUNCIL’S COMMITTEE ON FINANCE APPROVES LOW-INCOME TAX FREEZE, SENDS BILL TO COUNCIL FLOOR FOR CONSIDERATION

In Council News, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Kendra Brooks, News by Jamie Gauthier

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PHILADELPHIA – Today, City Council’s Committee on Finance approved Bill No. 240059, introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) which 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 is part of Councilmember Gauthier’s Defying Displacement campaign and the Our Philly Neighborhoods platform championed by Councilmembers Brooks, Gauthier, O’Rourke, and Landau.

The bill will now be considered by the entire City Council. It is eligible for passage as soon as Thursday, May 23rd.

During today’s hearing, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, Chair of City Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless said, “The communities that endured redlining, endured deindustrialization, and endured disinvestment are now enduring gentrification fueled by biased property assessment practices that make them more vulnerable to speculative development. We know another reassessment is coming. If we don’t protect seniors and other low-income homeowners now, we put multi-generational wealth and family stability at risk!”

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 $33K per year for a single-person household and $41,500 for married taxpayers.

“We know that the most affordable home is the one that you already live in. This is why we must do all that we can to ensure that homeownership is affordable in the City of Philadelphia,” said Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson. “By freezing property taxes for low-income homeowners, we are seeking to provide stability so they can stay in their homes and communities during a time when our utilities, groceries and everyday cost of living is higher. We are giving them the tools needed to plan for their future as homeowners with confidence.”

“Safe and vibrant neighborhoods are anchored by the families who lived there for generations,” said Minority Leader Kendra Brooks. “With property values rising, many of these families are being pushed out by steep increases in their tax bills. We already have a property tax freeze for our seniors. It’s time to extend it to low-income homeowners as well, so we can keep more working families in their homes.”

This bill is co-sponsored by Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore-Richardson (At-Large), Minority Leader Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Minority Whip Nicolas O’Rourke (At-Large), Housing Committee Vice Chair Rue Landau (At-Large), Councilmember Quetcy Lozada (7th District), and Councilmember Mark Squilla (1st District).

The City anticipates new real estate assessment values for 2025. During the last property assessment, over 107,000 residential properties saw increases of at least 50%; the 3rd Council District saw the highest number of such increases citywide. Almost 31,000 assessments increased by at least 100%; over 6,000 assessments increased by at least 200%; 3,500 assessments increased by at least 300%. These are sudden increases that are simply too much for the average Philadelphia household to bear.

Two-thirds of Philadelphia’s lowest-income homeowners are Black and Hispanic, meaning the current taxation and assessment system has a disproportionate impact on people of color.

The state constitution’s “uniformity clause” mandates that all local and state taxes be flat, with the same percentage applied to all taxpayers or properties. This means the City cannot tax people or entities in different ways unless the Commonwealth enables us to.

In the summer of 2022, Governor Wolf signed Act 58 of 2022 into law, introduced by Rep. Jared Solomon as HB 581, which permits local tax authorities to provide refunds or forgiveness of real estate taxes to low-income taxpayers. Councilmember Gauthier’s bill is the local legislation necessary to activate Act 58’s tax freeze in Philadelphia. Act 58 requires the City to benchmark income eligibility to PACENET.

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