Sharp increases in property taxes a threat to Mantua residents

 A mural is shown in Philadelphia's Mantua neighborhood at Fairmount Avenue and 34th Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A mural is shown in Philadelphia's Mantua neighborhood at Fairmount Avenue and 34th Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Speak Easy is examining issues of neighborhood development in Philadelphia. How can city leaders help us achieve a fair future for long-term residents and newcomers alike? Seeking diverse perspectives on these issues, NewsWorks is hosting a public forum, “Philadelphia Neighborhoods in Flux,” on April 21 at WHYY studios. Registration is free at whyy.org/speakeasy.

The rate of home ownership in Mantua — 34 percent — is at its lowest since the mid-1970s. Philadelphia’s recent Actual Value Initiative (AVI) property assessments resulted in sharp property tax increases throughout the neighborhood. In 2013, the median market value of property in Mantua was assessed at $13,200. In 2014, the value rose to $55,900, placing an unfair financial burden on long-time homeowners already struggling to meet tax obligations.

AVI has negatively affected the families of this community and has put all of us at risk of either losing our properties or acquiescing and relocating. Development of multi-unit student housing in the Mantua community is progressing rapidly, leaving few or no options for families.

The Mantua community stands united in demanding a moratorium tax freeze on property tax increases for long-time owner-occupied Mantua residences. We feel that we deserve the same consideration given to developers and businesses. Long-time, tax-paying residents who have supported the Mantua community and the city should be able to remain in their homes and not feel threatened by huge, sudden increases in property taxes.

On March 19, the Mantua Civic Association held its monthly community meeting. Residents packed Grace Lutheran Church. The community unanimously voted to support the tax freeze moratorium for Mantua. As a result of this community vote, we have recently gotten support from local Greek organizations Kappa Alpha Psi and Kappa Kappa to go door to door having Mantua residents sign petitions to support the tax moratorium.

We need the city’s support for a moratorium on rising property tax rates for long-time homeowners, particularly our seniors. This is particularly important given existing high tax delinquency rates and developer interest to produce student rental housing in our neighborhood.

President of the Mantua Civic Association, De’Wayne Drummond works for the school district of Philadelphia as a parent engagement assistant. He recruits and trains parents and guardians to participate in Philadelphia School District Head Start policy council and parent committees.

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