Late last week the City’s Office of Property Assessment sent out new property assessments as part of the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), an ambitious effort to reform Philadelphia’s badly broken property-tax system. There has been so much AVI coverage in the last few days that we prepared a special roundup of articles and sites to find out useful information about AVI and its impact::
- The Office of Property Assessment is the online hub for the city’s AVI information.
- Check out Taxepedia, a handy NewsWorks blog to explain the intricacies of the city’s property reassessments and tax reform efforts. Find helpful answers to your AVI questions (What the heck is AVI?, Is AVI a done deal?, How does Philadelphia do assessments?, How do I appeal my assessment?) and more.
- Center City Residents Association published this AVI primer. [pdf]
- Use the city’s AVI Calculator to estimate the your 2014 property tax bill. Enter in an address to view the new assessment and then use a slider to set different property tax rates. (The rate (Bonus: Technically Philly explains the tech behind AVI calculator, and just what a big deal this transparency initiative actually is given the volume of data and impact on every property owner in the city.)
Big Picture Impact:
- AVI’s impact is a mixed bag: There will be sharp increases in gentrified/gentrifying neighborhoods (think Northern Liberties and Bella Vista, Powelton and Point Breeze), and reductions in long-stable neighborhoods and struggling sections (think Chestnut Hill and Kingsessing respectively). Expect a battle royale over the accuracy of the new assessments and public shock among those who must suddenly adjust to huge increases in their tax burden. But keep this in mind: “AVI is meant to address a property tax system that was once so broken that only 3 percent of homeowners received bills based on their home’s real value.” [Inquirer]
- The Office of the City Controller prepared this AVI impact breakdown by zipcode. [pdf]
- Visualize the change in property taxes from 2013-2014 using this map from Axis Philly. The map uses the new assessed values and factors in a 1.34% tax rate and a $30,000 Homestead Exemption. It’s a fascinating peek into the hyper-locality of real estate valuations as well as broader trends across neighborhoods.
- “No place is facing bigger increases than Councilman Mark Squilla’s First District, which includes the river wards from South Philadelphia to Port Richmond.” And given the doubling and tripling of assessments in his district Squilla fears that folks won’t be able to pay up. “This is going to create more delinquents,” he said. [Inquirer]
- The city’s 10 biggest commercial taxpayers will get tax breaks. The biggest winner? The investors who own the Franklin Mills Mall, which could see property taxes reduced by an estimated $3.38 million for 2014. “It’s been a great week for the office-building owners. They’ve been getting the shaft for about 20 years, so it’s about time,” said on Philadelphia private real estate appraiser. Overall property tax bills for commercial or industrial properties are expected to drop at least 26 percent. [Inquirer]
- Is land massively undervalued?Naked Philly thinks so. Property assessments boil down to the value of the land and the improvements to that land (aka a building). But the land values in many neighborhoods seems to bear little resemblance to what people are willing to pay for a vacant lot. If city land is undervalued, there are two obvious implications: The city will lose out on money from taxpayers who are taking advantage of the 10-year tax abatements (because they still pay taxes on the land despite the abatement), and low values could encourage land speculation. As Bella Vista Town Watch President and Zoning Board of Adjustment member Greg Pastore told the Inquirer: “The winners shouldn’t be people sitting on vacant land.” And Naked Philly suggests that undervalued land could make “land banking ridiculously easy and inexpensive,” contending that could stifle private development.
On the ground:
- Linda Rowe of Cantrell Street near South 8th is disabled and has been behind on her annual tax bill of $375, and now that her tax burden is expected to triple she says she won’t be able shoulder the increase. Rowe has lived in her house for 28 years and is disabled, living on $1,002 a month. Of the increase, Rowe said: “I don’t have that kind of money.” [Daily News]
- Nearby at Moore and South 5th streets, Julia Lind’s taxes could increase 158%. At a 1.25% tax rate, Lind would pay $2,005 in 2014. “If that’s the case, it’s going to be a ghost town here,” she said Saturday morning, standing in her foyer. “Ain’t no way anybody’s going to pay that. If they’re going to pay two grand, they’re going to pay it in a good neighborhood.” [Inquirer]
- Raymond and Barbara Barlow have watched Northern Liberties’ completely change over the 37 years they’ve lived on the 5000 block of Poplar Street. The Barlows are seniors living on a fixed income and they fear that the estimated jump in their taxes – from $1,629 to $3,445 – will push them to sell their home. Of the impact on long-term residents in gentrified neighborhoods City Controller Alan Butkovitz said: “They’re going to be taxed as if they had the money to move into those neighborhoods right now, when clearly they don’t.” [Axis Philly, Philly.com]
- For some taxpayers, AVI actually means relief. On the 6200 Block of Ellsworth Street in West Philadelphia, Arlene Pugh’s taxes will go down. “It’ll be awesome to get that little bit of breather,” she said. “I need all the money I can get.” [NewsWorks]