Council bills aim to make vacant, tax-delinquent properties profitable

Posted: March 08, 2013

CITY COUNCIL President Darrell Clarke will introduce a package of bills Thursday aimed at getting publicly owned, vacant and tax-delinquent properties back into the city's tax coffers.

Clarke hopes the measures will help ease the tax burden by generating additional dollars so Council can keep the tax rate low as the city moves to a new property-tax system based on market values, the Actual Value Initiative.

There are 40,000 vacant properties in the city, a quarter of them city-owned. If those properties become productive, Clarke said, that would mean $125 million in additional revenue. The city dishes out about $20 million a year in maintenance for vacant properties.

"We think it's more important in a long-term sense to develop that property and bring it back on the tax rolls," Clarke said. "We get new revenue from those properties, get out of delinquent-tax inventory [and it] creates a revenue stream and different quality of life for these neighborhoods."

Here's a look at the bills:

* Development districts: This bill, which was discussed previously, would allow the city to sell properties in designated development districts - where there are high numbers of vacant, publicly owned and tax-delinquent properties - at a discounted price if the buyer agrees to begin construction within six months and complete it in two years. Discounts range from 50 percent to 90 percent.

* Inclusionary Zoning Incentives: The city could provide incentives to developers who agree to sell or rent housing to residents with an income that is 120 percent of the area median income. The incentives include reduced parking requirements and permit fees, and flexible zoning standards.

* Rapid Redevelopment Incentive: Those who buy vacant properties at sheriffs' sales can participate in a program in which buyers can get 50 percent of their money back from the city so long as construction is completed within 18 months.

* Affordable housing and job creation: This bill allows the city to sell properties at little cost for a project that creates affordable housing or jobs for low- and moderate-income residents.

* Homestead incentive: This bill would forgive the mortgage for residents who build housing, live on the property for five years sl long as their income does not exceed 150 percent of the area median income.

The city has long struggled to deal with its vacant-land problem and got the OK from the state last year to move forward on a measure introduced by Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez to create a land bank that will likely be operated by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp.

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom


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