Philly reassessment hurts African Americans and seniors on fixed incomes

By Stephen Williams

PHILADELPHIA CREAM – Rosalee Cooper, president of the Ridge Allegheny Hunting Park Association, says many of her neighbors are worried and confused about the city’s reassessment of their homes. When she checked on the city’s website, the value of her home was $127,000, about double last year when it was $64,000.

“That means my tax bill will double,” Cooper said. “A lot of them are complaining that with the increase in taxes they won’t have money to fix their house because they have to pay the taxes coming up and we know they are going up. We have a lot of seniors on a fixed income, they can barely manage it, some have to choose between their drugs and their taxes.

According to Cooper, most of his neighbors have seen similar increases and some who can’t qualify for home equity loans are turning to reverse mortgages, which often results in a family losing their home if their heirs don’t. cannot pay interest that accrues until the borrower dies or leaves the home. The community group held half a dozen meetings with city officials to discuss the reassessments.

They are not alone.

Earlier this month, Mayor Jim Kenney said the average residential property value in the city had risen 31%, in the first citywide revaluation in three years. Tax bills are due March 31, 2023.

According to a review by City Comptroller Rebecca Rhynhart’s office, the largest percentage increases are concentrated in the North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia and South Philadelphia neighborhoods.

These communities have large concentrations of black, brown, and fixed-income residents.

In addition, the comptroller’s review identified inconsistencies in the assessments. For example, 4,200 properties, including 3,300 residential properties, had assessments of $0. The Comptroller’s Office has released an interactive map that details the increases in each section of the city.

“When we looked at property assessments in 2019, we found that our poorest neighborhoods had the worst assessments – our most vulnerable residents paid more than their fair share of property taxes, compared to wealthier neighborhoods,” said said Rhynhart. “At this point, the Office of Property Assessment has not released its methodology or data to show that these past issues have been resolved.”

According to Rhynhart, while it is possible that there will be large increases in assessed values ​​for the 2023 tax year, it is unlikely that market changes over the past three years alone will explain the doubling of assessed values. assessed values ​​in some parts of the city.

“Add to that the opaque process and inconsistencies in land valuation and one thing is clear: the revaluation process needs improvement,” Rhynhart said.

Kevin Lassard, spokesman for Kenney, said the city’s rapid growth has made reassessment difficult, but the city has programs designed to provide relief to residents.

“We recognize that accurately capturing the city’s extraordinary growth in property values ​​– which is a good reflection of Philadelphia being a prime location – can at the same time present financial challenges for many Philadelphians, that is. exactly why the administration has offered relief measures that accrue to taxpayers. every dollar from the city’s general fund that the new assessments are expected to generate,” he said. “These measures include increasing the homestead exemption by more than 40%, increasing the amount spent on LOOP by 20%, reducing payroll tax to its lowest rate since over 40 years, increasing outreach funding to register people for already significant relief measures, and working to get more seniors to register for the senior tax freeze.

Residents will receive notices from the city regarding the new assessments by September 1. Appeals must be filed with the tax review board by October 3.

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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