Property tax-deferral plan for poor Philly homeowners advances to mayor

Philadelphia City Council has approved a plan to help longtime homeowners who can't afford their property taxes.

A woman sits on the concrete steps in front of her Philadelphia rowhome

Madeline Shikomba sits on the stoop of her home. In 2013 she was fighting a tenfold increase in her home's assessment. (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Philadelphia City Council has approved a plan to help longtime homeowners who can’t afford their property taxes.

The measure defers property taxes for people who cannot afford to pay them until they sell the property.  That will prevent forcing a home to a sheriff’s sale, said Council President Darrell Clarke.

“When you look at the demographics of the properties listed for sheriff’s sales, a significant number … were properties that did not have mortgages,” he said. “So these were properties purchased 20, 30, 40 years ago, but the incomes of those individuals did not rise and keep pace with the increased cost of housing.”

The change is vital for elderly people in gentrifying neighborhoods, Clarke added.

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“To suggest that somehow, because a low-income senior citizen has challenges paying their taxes, that we should put them out on the street is just something that should not happen in the city of Philadelphia in 2017,” he said.

The bill now goes to Mayor Jim Kenney for his signature.

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