Philly’s coddling of tax deadbeats harms neighborhoods and property values

Philadelphia does a poor job of  tracking down property tax delinquents and making them pay.  This failure cripples the tax base, erodes the equity of many homeowners, and starves the city and its schools of funds, according to a new series by NewsWorks partner PlanPhilly and reporter Patrick Kerkstra.

Their investigation and analysis found that:

Delinquency depresses the overall property-tax base by at least $9.5 billion, a staggering sum that represents almost 10 percent of the city’s $98.5 billion in taxable real estate.
On average, single-family homes are worth 22.8 percent less on the open market than they would be if they had no delinquent neighbors.
If delinquency were eliminated – a goal that most U.S. cities approach and some cities achieve on a regular basis – the tax revenue generated by a healthier tax base could be as much as $298 million a year.
At least 59 percent of all delinquent real estate in Philadelphia belongs to landlords, speculators and investors who do not live at the delinquent properties they own.
 Delinquent properties are voracious consumers of scarce city resources and prodigious generators of blight, accounting for far more than their share of taxpayer-funded demolitions, code violations and court hearings.
Very few neighborhoods are immune from the effects of delinquency. Ninety-six percent of all single-family homes have lost property value because of nearby delinquents.

Despite these effects, PlanPhilly and Kerkstra report, tax delinquency has received little sustained attention from most administrations for at least the past few decades. Mayors have, on occasion, announced initiatives promising to crack down on the largest of deadbeats. But none of these programs have dealt a serious blow to the problem.

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You can see the full report, with interactive graphics by AxisPhilly, at 

The four-part series also appears this week in print in the Philadelphia Inquirer.


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