Philadelphia could expand residential tax-abatement program

Members of a Philadelphia City Council Committee have approved an expansion of the Longtime Owner Occupants Program (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Members of a Philadelphia City Council Committee have approved an expansion of the Longtime Owner Occupants Program (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Council wants to expand a tax break for longtime homeowners facing steep rises in their property taxes.

Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin says 16,000 homeowners are enrolled in the Longtime Owner Occupants Program known as LOOP. It’s open to homeowners who have seen their tax assessments triple and have been in their home at least ten years. The program has a cap — once the frozen tax bills total $20 million, no more homeowners can apply.

Council wants to raise the cap to $25 million, so more homeowners can participate. The proposed expansion has Breslin concerned.

“This really creates inequities, and the ramifications only get greater as the difference between what people are paying increases,” Breslin said.

Monty Wilson, an attorney with Community Legal Services said homeowners throughout the city are struggling to pay their taxes.

“Property tax problems are the number one issue that comes into our office at CLS,” Wilson said. “They beat out welfare issues, they beat out employment issues, they beat out people seeking representation vs. [Department of Human Services]. This is a growing issue.”

Under the plan, participation would be limited to those who have owned their properties for at least a decade among other restrictions.

The freeze stays in place only until the property is sold, and the tax must have increased by 150 percent in a year for homeowners who have owned their properties for a decade or more.

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