Consumer rights

Provide relief for higher home assessments

Kenyatta Johnson, member of the Philadelphia 2nd District Council. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

A proposal to reduce house displacement due to the city’s new property assessments has been approved by city council.

Council member Kenyatta Johnson, who represents parts of South and Southwest Philadelphia, created the “Save Our Homes” plan to provide relief to those affected by the citywide assessment, which will lead to large increases in property tax bills for many residents.

Johnson’s seven-point plan was approved by city council on June 23 and will provide residents with ways to counter the increases.

The goal of the Save Our Homes plan is to reduce travel, making property taxes fairer and more transparent while remaining revenue neutral.

“The city’s property assessment office announced in May that property assessments for the 2023 tax year would increase an average of 31% across the city,” Johnson said. “In some neighborhoods, assessments have doubled. The increases are highest in low-income black and brown neighborhoods. Mass displacement is a real threat. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the support and cooperation of my Council colleagues, the Save Our Homes Property Tax Relief Plan is a set of solutions that will benefit Philadelphia homeowners and renters. I am proud to have at least 12 council members as co-sponsors of the four bills in this package.

The main parts of the Save Our Homes plan are:

  • Increase the city’s homestead exemption from $45,000 to $80,000. This will increase the value of the benefit from $629 per year to approximately $1,120 per year.
  • Allowing retroactive enrollment in the seniors tax freeze, starting in 2018. This will allow low-income seniors to freeze their property assessments at the time they became eligible, rather than at the time they enrolled.
  • Multiple program changes for long-time homeowners that will significantly increase access for low-to-middle income homeowners. Newly eligible households would increase for thousands of homeowners.
  • Allocate at least $15 million for the city’s housing assistance program in the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget.
  • Allocate at least $2.5 million in the fiscal year 2023 budget for an awareness campaign to inform Philadelphia residents of the property tax relief programs available to them.
  • Allocate $1 million in the fiscal year 2023 budget for free legal assistance for low-income tenants facing displacement due to rising rents, in part due to assessment increases.
  • Officials say the Save Our Homes property tax relief plan is backed by Community Legal Services, which helps clients when they are threatened with losing their homes, income, healthcare and even family. .

“If we don’t expand relief programs, rising property tax bills will hit homeowners hard at a time when people are still reeling from the economic crisis of the pandemic,” said Jonathan Sgro, CLS Supervising Lawyer/Property and Consumer Rights Unit. “While families and seniors are already struggling to pay their mortgages, many homeowners are at risk of losing their homes. We are so grateful to Council Member Kenyatta Johnson and City Council members who support this legislation to prevent homelessness and preserve intergenerational wealth. Expanding access to these programs is a huge step forward in ensuring Philadelphia homeowners get the help they need.

Once the bill is signed into law by Mayor Jim Kenney, $80,000 of a property’s assessed value would be exempt from property taxes. According to OPA data for 2023, $189,800 is the median market value of owner-occupied homes in Philadelphia.

Once a Homestead application is accepted by the city, a Philadelphia homeowner could save about $1,119 on next year’s property taxes, up from average savings of $629 per year today.

Residents will never have to reapply for the exemption and would benefit from property tax savings each year, as long as the person continues to own and live in the property.