If Philadelphia starts growing new economy jobs it will be due to the efforts today of Stephen Tang and others who are working to create an environment for startups, innovation and entrepreneurs. Carla Robinson profiles this key player in the city’s efforts at economic revival.
The unintended consequence of a new city program to stop the spread of bed bugs may be more bed bugs. Nathaniel Lee reports on how some residents in Southwest Philly are responding to the city’s mandate to wrap discarded mattresses in plastic bags.
A new unit in L&I created to fight blight was doing great work, but there’s not much of the original unit left and enforcement actions have gone down. Patrick Kersktra looks at the past — and the uncertain future — of the Vacant Strategy Unit.
When proponents speak of the Philadelphia Land Bank as a way to eliminate 40,000 vacant properties, I don’t visualize the empty houses and lots. I think if the people who once occupied those neighborhoods. I think of my own family.
For Philadelphia, 2013 was filled with crushing lows and euphoric highs, but the biggest stories shaped us, made us better, and united us in ways we could never have imagined. Solomon Jones looks at the events that shaped the year.
With the Great Recession over, the pace of development in Center City is picking up. We look at what’s happening on the retail front, with new stores opening and the promise of more. Carla Robinson reports on the retail revival.
If you’re not sure what to make of the vote by Philadelphia’s City Council to approve amendments to create a city land bank, you are not alone. Isaiah Thompson explains what the bill does and does not do. it is due for final passage this week.
On the eve of a deadline to pass a land bank bill before Council recesses for the holidays, Council President Clarke is enlisting groups to oppose a bill he’s said he supported for the better part of a year. His office is busy assembling a small army to come to Council tomorrow and testify against the land bank bill as it stands now.
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When Council convenes for its second-to-last session for the year tomorrow, all eyes will be on Council President Darrell Clarke, who faces his most direct public challenge since he took leadership of the city’s legislative body. The challenge is this: The President has spent the better part of a year pledging support for a land […]
The Sharswood section of North Philadelphia has suffered from blight and neglect for years. Now, with a federal grant, there is a chance there will be a plan to change that. Solomon Jones looks at the potential — and the perils — facing the neighborhood.
On Thanksgiving eve, Council President Darrell Clarke advanced amendments to the long-anticipated land bank bill that includes changes supporters of the bill have called “deal-breakers.” Isaiah Thompson has details.
The property tax bills for 2013 are being mailed out by the city of Philadelphia. This is the first time the tax will be based on market value as determined by AVI. Find out what your tax bill will be using our interactive map and read about details of the new system.
The Big Dogs don’t give a dime to the city, but Tom Ferrick has found a small group of nonprofits who go against the flow and make voluntary payments to city government. What’s up with these outbursts of generosity?
No wonder Philadelphia’s big non-profits get jittery over talk about them giving money to help the public schools. Read about the Supreme Court ruling that gives new powers to local government to tax non-profits.
Katrina Ohstrom is one of a handful of artists who’ve rallied to document the final days of the 23 public schools which close their doors for good this afternoon. She’s been shooting Edward W. Bok Technical High School at Ninth & Mifflin in South Philadelphia.
The mapping and organizing tool “Grounded in Philly” was created in partnership with a New York group that’s done similar work in that city, according to Amy Laura Cahn of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
Marc Mannella, CEO of KIPP Philadelphia, presented the proposal to a community meeting Thursday night called by City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who is among those fighting to keep Wilson open in some form.
To mollify the increase in gentrifying neighborhoods, Council President Darrell Clarke amended a bill that would provide relief for longtime homeowners who show they can’t afford a tax hike. Means-based taxation requires the state Legislature’s approval, which is expected to pass soon.
It is the rest of us who should be concerned that a Delancey Street mansion has been allowed to rot in full view for the better part of two decades. If Philadelphia’s most influential people can’t get City Hall to lay down the law about a blighted property in the best part of the city, who can?
AxisPhilly and NBC 10 present: “What’s Next? A Forum on Bok High’s Future.” The event will bring together neighbors, leaders and experts to discuss the closing of Bok Technical High School and strategies for the future use of the building. The school is slated to be closed at the end of the 2013 school year, […]
The Detroit district has made more than $16 million by selling or leasing closed schools and vacant land. Forty schools have been sold. Another 45 are leased, according to the district. More than 80 schools are listed as available.
Students will work with mentors — professionals like designers and architects — to research and develop new uses for specific vacant lots in Kensington. At the end of the six-week program, two student concepts will win at least $2,000 each to put their ideas into motion.
Perhaps as a response to revelations that taxes on vacant properties would actually decrease under the Actual Value Initiative, the legislation proposes a 10 percent to 18 percent increase on the assessed value of parcels that have been abandoned for more than one year.
Mayor Michael Nutter is expected to sign the ordinance, which allows tax-delinquent homeowners to enter into income-based repayment plans with the Department of Revenue, and compels the Department to pursue foreclosure on any delinquent owner who doesn’t enter into such a plan within one year.
Council President Darrell Clarke said the exemption at $30,000, the amount eligible homeowners can deduct from their assessments before the tax rate is applied, is an important key to the implementation of the Actual Value Initiative — along with setting the real estate tax at 1.34 percent.
When Lucy Aponte made the winning $20,000 bid at a sheriff’s sale for an office building with a parking lot, she thought she was one step closer to fulfilling her dream to expand her neighborhood day-care center.. Turns out the city screwed up and more than a decade later, the eyesore still sits deteriorating and unsold in city inventory, and Aponte waits for the city to set a fair price.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Council’s only member to explicitly advocate halting AVI this year, and Councilman Mark Squilla, who pushed successfully in 2012 for a one-year delay, both said they saw “no political will” to stop AVI again.
This February, the School Reform Commission announced a gesture of its own toward combating the city’s gaping tax-delinquency problem. The SRC ruled that tax deadbeats could no longer hold lucrative school contracts. That mandate, however, doesn’t extend to charter or alternative schools or the companies they contract with, despite the explosive growth of such institutions in recent years.
With the power of eminent domain, huge holdings of vacant land and a staff with deep technical expertise, the authority is likely to remain a vital tool in the city’s fight to redevelop blighted neighborhoods and fuel economic growth. But the past few years have nonetheless raised serious questions about PRA’s role and its future, as its new executive director acknowledges.
Council President Darrell Clarke and City Councilmen David Oh and Bobby Henon introduced legislation to increase the transparency of OPA. Under pressure from Council and community members, the OPA did post some information to its website about how it arrived at assessments, but Council members aren’t satisfied.
“The Crosstown Coalition of Taxpayers is in favor of the AVI goal of fair and accurate assessments, but must now reluctantly conclude that the job has not been well done,” said CCoT’s Stephen Huntington.
While the major players in City Council and the Nutter administration say they continue to support the notion of a land bank, there are significant unresolved questions over its leadership structure, its operational framework and the role individual district Council members will play in the sales of publicly owned land. And those questions are getting little attention in this busy budget season.
The main thrust of the study confirms previous claims that the current iteration of AVI will shift roughly seven percent of the city’s total taxable value from commercial to residential properties, but offers several other important findings.
It aims to address the problem by mapping Philly’s more than 40,000 vacant lots, and empowering urban planners and artists with tools for collaborating on plans to revamp these spaces on a lot-by-lot basis.
City Council Member Bill Green has proposed two bills that would impact the nonprofit sector. One would require nonprofits to file an annual report outlining their benefit to the community. The other would tax commercial activity by nonprofits that is outside of their stated mission.
Urban economist Kevin Gillen, senior researcher at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government, argues that, while he supports debate over the tax rate, there’s no good argument for not having accurate assessments.
What started as the singular cause of the business community has over time become a commonly held view in City Hall, even among some of the more liberal Democrats: Taxes ought to be lower, particularly wage and business taxes.
“I like to joke that we have the cost of construction of New York, but we have Baltimore’s rents and house prices,” Kevin Gillen said. “If we did not have that condition, the abatement would not be necessary and I would certainly not be for it.”
For 10 years, the house at 716 South 49th St. was little more than a front wall. Fire and rain water had gutted the structure. Neighbors complained constantly.
But 18 months after University City District’s Project Rehab got involved, the property has a new owner and reconstruction has started.
Some of these houses were replacing vacant land, while in other cases blighted homes were demolished to make room for the new construction. In either case, these projects represent important progress for an area that still has a stunning number of vacant properties.
IT’S BEEN A YEAR since the deaths of fire Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney fighting a massive inferno at the Buck Hosiery building, a vacant property that had racked up numerous back taxes and citations before catching fire.In the year since the tragedy, the city still has only taken stop-gap measures in reducing the large amount of vacant land.
Schools, obviously enough, are not ordinary buildings, and they can be difficult to convert to non-educational uses. The sites are typically large, and repurposing a shuttered school is simply too big a project for many developers and non-profits.
From April 1 to May 31, any group wishing to organize a cleanup can register with the Schuylkill Scrub at SchuylkillScrub.org. Those registered can receive free gloves, trash bags and safety vests, as well as free garbage disposal at participating landfills during Pick It Up PA Days.
Emily Dowdall, senior associate with the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative, said it’s best to start discussing the future of a vacant school building sooner rather than later. They’re not an easy sell.
Built in 1938, Bok Tech is one of the only school buildings in the city entirely financed and constructed by the Works Progress Administration. More of a limestone castle than an ivory tower, Bok is one of the last remaining schools designed by Irwin Catharine.
One coalition of unions and advocacy groups is organizing to demand that lawmakers expand their thinking to include wage tax reform, collections and property-tax abatements. A second coalition, that one of civic associations and a handful of City Council members, is insisting AVI is flawed altogether.
Exempt properties, which include churches, hospitals, universities and museums, make up the majority of nontaxable property value – $30.6 billion – and abated properties make up $6.8 billion, according to a City Council analysis of data.
A City Council analysis of Mayor Nutter’s property-tax plan shows that – with the right mix of tax relief – as many as 72 percent of homeowners could see lower bills and just 10 percent would see bills rise by more than $400.
Across the United States, cities are “right-sizing” their school districts, closing and combining schools to combat crunched budgets and dwindling student populations. … One of the thorniest issues (in what is a veritable forest of mess) is what to do with those school buildings once they’re empty.
In a Call for Action issued just before the weekend, the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors (GPAR) called on city residents to push their representatives to take a number of steps that would close that gap.
Frank Maimone sometimes gets as hot as his pizza ovens in Northern Liberties. Frank gets hot because he can see a day coming that he does not want to see – when crazy city policy and taxes force him out of the city he loves.
Nutter named Tom Knudsen, former CEO of Philadelphia Gas Works and Philadelphia Schools’ chief recovery officer, the city’s first Chief Collections Officer, charged with developing cross-agency strategies for improving collections of various debts owed to the city.
Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. has said he’s gotten a “butt-whooping” from residents who are furious about their new property tax assessments. Today, Council gave something of a whooping back to Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration
“We’re not doing anything any differently from any other major city, it’s just that this is the first time we have ever had to do it here in the City of Philadelphia,” said Richie McKeithen, the OPA’s chief assessment officer.
Temple University students present their take on floating litter – the plastic bags that flutter around virtually every litter-strewn street and sidewalk in Philadelphia. This short film was first published in 2010 by Presenting Our Perspective on Philly Youth News (POPPYN), an initiative of Temple University.
Because of the city’s newly discovered desire to go after tax delinquent properties, we figured we’d provide you with a tool to direct their efforts. That’s right folks, you too can send properties on your block to sheriff sale, in just five easy steps!
Inga Saffron’s Changing Skyline column: “For my money, the best idea in the plan is the creation of what I think of as the “vacancy sheriff”: someone who would track down speculators who let buildings and retail spaces sit idle.”
The politically charged process of deciding how to spread $1.2 billion in property taxes across Philadelphia surged forward Thursday, with Mayor Nutter suggesting a basic tax of 1.32 percent and three tax breaks to ease the impact on lower-income home and business owners.
As much as school closures distress families, they also leave physical holes in urban neighborhoods, where a once-busy school entrance often becomes just a facade. Schools have long done double-duty as community institutions, offering after-school care and services, networking for parents, and meeting places for boards of education or parent groups.
For decades, City Hall has been an indifferent steward of Philadelphia’s most elemental resource: the land itself. The result has been low collection rates on real estate taxes, inaccurate property assessments, suspect property data, and poor management of thousands of parcels owned by city agencies.
The system does have its advantages for low-rent landlords, out-of-town speculators, and anyone else interested in playing property Powerball, a game where the objective is to pile up real estate in hope of hitting a gentrification jackpot, while keeping out-of-pocket expenses – like taxes – as low as possibleT
A year-long PlanPhilly/Inquirer investigation into the city’s real-estate tax enforcement system and a professional economic analysis of property data has found that mass delinquency cripples the tax base, erodes the home equity of hundreds of thousands of owners, and starves both City Hall and the school district of badly needed funds.
Breaking down the city’s plan going forward reveals that tax bills in gentrifying areas may continue to rise over time and that the new system could become a source of new revenue despite the city’s claim that it is revenue-neutral.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke plans to introduce a package of five bills Thursday designed to quickly move vacant, delinquent, and city-owned land back into productive use – and back to the tax rolls.
“I think it’s pretty clear, unfortunately, that some of the information the Controller has put out is just inaccurate and wrong,” Nutter said. “I think it’s unfortunate if that’s being done in an effort to basically scare the hell out of people.”
Source: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/off-mic/item/51889 on
Mar. 6, 2013
Dave Davies: “I’ve been covering this damn city for most of my working life, and for the last 20 years or so, the people who’ve run it have actually worked really hard to try and reduce the tax burden.”
The group that took up residence at the vacant home on the 1500 block of Lindley Avenue was making the elderly neighbors nervous. Every day, they saw the same group of men and women shuttling in and out of the house, having arguments and engaging in suspicious transactions.
Source: The Public School Notebook on
Mar. 4, 2013
“Recent analyses show that most students from schools recommended for closing in Philadelphia would not end up in better-performing schools. They are likely to wind up in schools much like the ones they were in before, as a recent study by Research for Action shows.”
Council now has the responsibility of grappling with the real meaning of these numbers, by implementing a fairer and more-accurate tax system, while minimizing the impact on those city residents who can least afford to pay more.
Its most ardent advocates believe the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) will allow the city to finally right its notoriously business-hostile tax landscape, often blamed for Philadelphia’s lagging behind other big cities in important economic categories.
Dave Davies: Mayor Nutter wants a happy ending to his effort to transform Philadelphia’s property tax system, he should do a better job of selling it. Or to be more precise, the people running it should.
Council aide: “As it stands now, the smaller neighborhood commercial properties who are about to take it on the chin with AVI will get double slammed on their U&O bills. In any event, we are drafting legislation to address this…”
City Controller Alan Butkovitz,: 73 percent of the 5,148 commercial properties that will see tax increases under AVI are properties between 1,000 and 10,000 square feet and include restaurants, funeral homes, auto-repair shops and small grocery stores.
Several readers have asked the same burning question: Under Mayor Michael Nutter’s Actual Value Initiative, why has the city determined that some properties are worth less (or more) than what they sold for in the last couple years?
Graduate Hospital and University City. Passyunk Square and Fishtown. Property taxes in these neighborhoods will be going up by an average of $1,500, and there are thousands of cases where the increases will be far steeper.
The School Reform Commission will vote Thursdat on a policy that would prevent tax deadbeats from getting new contracts from the School District. The policy would also allow the District to withhold payment from existing vendors who fall behind on any of their city taxes.
The results of a citywide reassessment were released Friday, and the data confirm some long-held expectations – wealthier, fast-changing neighborhoods are facing stiff increases, and many large commercial properties will see big drops in their bills.
“The young families that bought four or five years ago, and made major investments to upgrade the quality of their homes, because the assessments were relatively low, say relative to Lower Merion, are also faced with the fact their children are now school age.”
As expected, many residents in gentrified Philly neighborhoods will get slammed when the city moves to its new property-tax system next year – at least according to City Controller Alan Butkovitz, a frequent critic of the new policy.
State legislators who worked hard last year at City Council’s request to pass a measure that would blunt potential tax increases under the city’s new property-tax system were not thrilled to hear that a bill had been introduced in Council to eliminate it.
This week, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter released its most detailed data yet to City Council, of which “It’s Our Money” obtained a copy. While it is preliminary and subject to change, it does reveal some fascinating stuff.
The political maneuvering over a property-tax overhaul began in earnest, with Councilman Bill Green proposing to kill the homestead exemption and the six freshman members calling for hearings on tax delinquents.
With the exception of a few old timers—and the petite-bourgeois interlopers who rode into Philly’s fringe neighborhoods on the coattails of gentrification—the sight of cast-off paper goods and empty soda cans doesn’t seem to bother too many people anymore.
The Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation (PARC), a non-profit real estate development company and public space maintenance organization, spends $275,000 annually – roughly 40 percent of its budget – on litter pick up.
Council members say they’re frustrated that they have yet to see neighborhood breakdowns of the new values. Mayor Nutter said that he has seen some preliminary numbers and that sticker shock may not happen.
City Council President Darrell Clarke strongly backed the Actual Value Initiative but stressed a good transition to AVI will require a host of extra measures to prevent citizens from being hurt in the process.
As Democratic state legislators held a conference to collect testimony in support of a package of state laws crucial to AVI’s implementation, much of the meeting was dedicated to figuring out how much, precisely, to try and squeeze Philadelphia’s yuppifying neighborhoods in favor of low-income, longtime homeowners.
In case you haven’t heard, Philadelphia is undergoing the largest and most drastic overhauling of its real estate tax system ever. There are a number of hurdles, deadlines, and dates that accompany this process. Here, in a nutshell, they are.
The district and the brokers charged with selling these surplus properties don’t want to unload them to just anyone who makes a bid. There is a definite preference to buyers who have strong financial backing and a track record for sticking to a timeline.
After eight years of discussion, legislation sponsored by State Rep. John Taylor giving cities permission to establish land banks finally passed the General Assembly. Gov. Corbett signed the bill in October. Since then, the Nutter administration has been moving to house a land bank within the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. (PHDC).
“It becomes a land bank’s job to take… donated parcels; to take blighted, vacant and abandoned property; get clear title; create an inventory; and get it back on the market for reuse,” said Liz Hersh, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.
Geographically and culturally, Philly is the East Coast. But some of the City’s biggest, most glaring urban issues, namely land vacancy and property neglect, are more in line with cities along a different body of water – the Great Lakes – the nation’s well known and oft derided Rust Belt.
The attempt to seize large amounts of privately held land is a peculiar reversal for an agency that has nominally made strides towards offloading the backlog of properties it has accumulated over 67 years of urban renewal activities.
Are you better off living in Philadelphia or its suburbs? The answer depends on several factors, but a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative can help you assess your situation.
Over the past 12 years, the number and value of tax-exempt properties in Philadelphia have increased sharply. Abatements — limited-time tax exemptions — have led the charge. But the value of city- and nonprofit-owned land is increasing as well. All of this tax-exempt property is a mixed blessing for the city.
The map shows 168 homes that sold for exactly $150,000 between January 2011 and June 2012. Because of the disparity in the assessed value of these homes, the taxes this year (before AVI is implemented) will range from $473 to $2,870. The average tax is $1,731.
To you, your house is your home, a unique place, your proverbial and literal shelter from the storm. To an assessor, though, your house is just a sum of its parts, a variety of factors run through something called a hedonic regression to come up with a single number: its “actual value.” And that process of establishing actual value — for each and every property in Philadelphia — is underway as you read this. In some ways, the process is simple. In many ways, though, the process is complicated.
This presentation was made to City Council in April to provide an overview of the potential impact of AVI on different neighborhoods and council districts. At the time, it seemed likely that the millage rate would be set around 1.25%, so this analysis is based on that tax rate. Since then, many have said […]
Source: PlanPhilly and The Notebook on
Oct. 19, 2011
The talk of closings and mergers and new catchments has sown confusion and threatened to blunt not just Penn Alexander’s impact, but also nascent efforts to make low-performing West Philadelphia schools like Lea Elementary into appealing options for parents with the financial freedom to send their children elsewhere.