Deadline for tax relief program could be extended for Philly homeowners

Legislation introduced in City Council would give residents more time to sign up for the Longtime Owner Occupants Program.

Rowhomes in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden neighborhood

File photo: Rowhomes in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden neighborhood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Philadelphia City Council is weighing legislation that would retroactively extend the deadline for a program that provides property tax relief for homeowners with low-to-moderate incomes.

The deadline for the Longtime Owner Occupants Program, commonly known as LOOP, is Saturday. If the measure passes, homeowners would have until January 31, 2024, to apply for tax year 2023.

“I introduced this bill so we could learn more about the program, inform the community, and extend the deadline to make sure as many people can sign up for this tax relief program as possible,” said City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada in a statement after Thursday’s session.

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LOOP is designed to prevent displacement in swiftly gentrifying neighborhoods by permanently locking in property values for qualifying homeowners.

Under the program, a homeowner’s reassessment value can be capped at 150% of the previous year’s value. For example, if a home was assessed at $100,000 in 2022, the property value in 2023 could not exceed $150,000.

Homeowners can also opt to have their property value permanently frozen at 175% of the lowest assessment issued during the previous five years. Council approved the new lookback provision last year. It applies to property assessments for tax year 2023 and beyond.

To qualify for LOOP, applicants must:

  • Have lived in your home for at least 10 years
  • Be a homeowner whose primary residence’s assessment increased by 50% from last year or 75% over the last five years
  • Be current with your property taxes or have a payment plan
  • Have an income that falls below the program’s limits. For a family of four, that limit is $137,250.

The program is capped at $35 million.

Homeowners cannot sign up for LOOP if they are enrolled in the Homestead Exemption program and vice-versa.

The homestead program now enables residents to deduct $80,000 from their property value before property taxes are calculated, which could lower their bill by about $1,119 each year. The exemption was previously valued at $45,000, which saved homeowners about $629 annually.

The restriction forces homeowners to choose between saving up front and saving in the long term, a tough decision that typically requires residents to consider their property’s value and personal finances.

“Some people want to lock in that tax bill before their house’s value starts to go up and up and up. And we can’t say what the homestead exemption will be in five years. So it really depends on the homeowner,” said Kate Dugan, a staff attorney with Community Legal Services.

Residential property assessments for tax year 2023 increased by an average of 31% citywide after a three-year pause in the process. The news caused widespread sticker shock and spurred City Council to pass a legislative package aimed at lessening the financial burden of the new property values.

The city will not reassess properties for tax year 2024 so the Office of Property Assessment can focus on working through the thousands of “First Level Reviews” residents filed in response to the new values. An FLR is an informal appeal that prompts the city to second look at your property assessment, typically to determine if it was erroneous and should be lowered.

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The temporary freeze, proposed by Mayor Jim Kenney in his final budget address, means homeowners could once again experience multiple years’ worth of property value increases in a single assessment, potentially yielding another wave of appeals.

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