COUNCIL, KENNEY ADMINISTRATION ADVANCE LEGISLATION TO LESSEN THE IMPACT OF PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS
The week began with a contentious public hearing, where Councilmembers grilled the city’s Office of Property Assessment and the Finance Director, for what OPA and Kenney administration officials knew about the new property reassessments, and when they knew it. It continued Thursday, as Councilmembers introduced legislation on their own and the mayor’s behalf to mitigate the impact of assessment increases averaging 31 percent for the average homeowner, and reaching as high as 60 percent in some neighborhoods.
Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District) introduced three property assessment mitigation measures on the Kenney administration’s behalf. One bill would increase the city’s Homestead Exemption, currently $45,000, to $65,000 – meaning any homeowner who applies for and receives this exemption would see $65,000 removed from their assessed value. This measure could save most homeowners up to $900 on their property taxes.
The next bill will increase the available pool of money available for the Longtime Owner Occupant Program, or LOOP, from its current $25 million to $30 million. This existing program helps qualifying, longtime homeowners struggling with the impact of rising property values caused by gentrification.
A third administration bill would reduce the wage tax for workers, to 3.8 percent in the next fiscal year starting July 1st, and to 3.7 percent in fiscal 2024.
Councilmember Brian O’Neill (10th District), introduced another bill on Thursday intended to mitigate the assessment increases, offering legislation to extend the time period in which senior citizen property owners can apply for the Senior Citizen Tax Freeze program, from Jan.31, 2022 until Sept. 30, 2022. The proposed bill would allow eligible seniors to enroll in the freeze program before the 2023 property assessments take effect.
“This legislation will protect senior citizens from property tax increases by giving them the opportunity to have their taxes frozen in place at their current rate before these unprecedented property assessments take effect,” said Councilmember O’Neill.
Philadelphia homeowners are eligible for the Senior Citizen Tax Freeze if they are:
- A person aged 65 years or older
- A person who lives in the same household with a spouse who is 65 years or older, or
- A person aged 50 years or older who is a widow of someone who reached the age of 65 before passing away.
And, if they meet the following income requirements:
- $33,500 or less for a single person, or
- $41,500 or less for a married couple.
O’Neill’s bill, like the administration mitigation measures, will be referred to a Council committee for a hearing.
COUNCILMEMBER GILMORE RICHARDSON INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE THE CITY’S TREE CANOPY
Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large) introduced a bill to address the declining tree canopy in Philadelphia and to create a Philly Tree Fund. The legislation makes changes to the zoning code to improve plantings; expand and create new buffers between industrial spaces or major highways/railways and residential areas; update rules for parking lots; remove exemptions for tree replacement in parks/open spaces; and creates a new Philly Tree Fund, which will collect payments in lieu of any trees that are removed and cannot be replaced on site. The payment structure is designed to incentivize 30% canopy cover on site, which is the benchmark for canopy growth goals.
“As Chair of City Council’s Committee on the Environment, I know trees and green spaces are not amenities, but necessities that improve the health and quality of life of our residents,” said Councilmember Gilmore Richardson.
Despite dedicated efforts over the last decade, the City of Philadelphia still lost 1,095 acres or six percent of tree canopy, according to a 2019 report. There are neighborhoods in Philadelphia that have less than seven percent tree canopy. These are the same neighborhoods that struggle immensely with urban heat, stormwater runoff, gun violence, and poor physical health. Tree canopy is another example of the systemic inequities facing Philadelphia’s communities.
“Philadelphians know and understand the benefits of trees, but they want the City to also take responsibility for them,” Gilmore Richardson said. “This bill puts us on a path to increasing our tree canopy by closing loopholes in the zoning code and creating a dedicated source of funding for the City to implement its tree plan.”
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
In many of our communities, abandoned cars sit idle for months on end, serving as havens for illicit activity and blight. Additionally, abandoned cars are directly correlated with lower property values, stunted commercial growth, and higher rates of gun violence. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/MX8Hg03MPo
— Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (@CouncilmemberJG) May 12, 2022
CITY COUNCIL, PHA, HELP USA CELEBRATE NEW HOUSING FOR SENIORS AND HOMELESS VETERANS IN NORTH PHILLY
The renovation of the former Reynolds school in the Sharswood neighborhood of North Philadelphia created 55 units of housing for seniors and homeless veterans in the new Brigadier General Hazel Johnson Brown Veterans Center.
“Opening our sixth project in Philadelphia is a significant milestone,” said David Cleghorn, Chief Housing Officer at HELP USA, at a news conference this week. “This building will provide housing and support services to people in need. Its transformation from an abandoned building into an asset for the neighborhood and the city exemplifies the best kind of public-private collaborations.”
The 51 one-bedroom and 4 two-bedroom apartments are designated for low-income seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. Nine units have been set aside for formerly homeless or special needs veterans.
“We strongly support this development of Veterans housing for worthy veterans who need safe, affordable places to call home in Philadelphia,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “These men and women served our Country admirably. Now, it’s time we served them.”
IN OTHER NEWS…
Council President has Legislation Offered to Create Division of Jobs and Training Opportunities in City Commerce Department. Council President Clarke had Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker introduce legislation to amend the city’s Home Rule Charter to create a Division of Jobs and Training Opportunities within the Commerce Department, and codifying the promotion of workforce development activity as a function of Commerce. As drafted, the question would appear on the November general election ballot. A related ordinance would require the new Commerce jobs and training division to maintain an online directory, telephone hotline and in-person office focused on connecting Philadelphians to jobs opportunities.
Ongoing Council Budget Hearings Will Examine the Courts, Law Department, Art Museum, and include Departmental Callbacks. The next date for Council’s ongoing budget hearings is May 24, when Council will consider the budgets of the First Judicial District, the Law Department, and Art Museum. Council will also hear public testimony that same day on the budget. The next day, May 25, Council will hear additional testimony from the Police Department, the Office of Property Assessment and the School District of Philadelphia. The dates and times for all budget hearings can be found in the FY2023 Budget Center at www.PHLCouncil.com/Budget2023.
The public can FY2023 Budget Hearings on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40, and streaming at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 19, 2022 at 10 a.m. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.
Featured Photo: Jared Piper