Property-tax relief program unveiled

Posted: December 05, 2013

PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia homeowners, check your mailboxes: The city this week plans to begin mailing applications to 80,000 property owners who could be eligible for a slice of the $20 million worth of tax relief in a new program.

The program, dubbed PHL Tax LOOP, targets longtime homeowners whose property values more than tripled in the citywide reassessment completed this year.

The tax break, known as gentrification relief, long was debated in City Council and the General Assembly as a patch to Mayor Nutter's property tax reform, which sought to tag actual market value onto every parcel in the city.

The fear was that longtime homeowners in neighborhoods that have seen explosive growth, such as Graduate Hospital and Northern Liberties, would be unable to afford their new bills.

The gentrification relief caps assessments for eligible homeowners for 10 years - a period meant to mirror the city's 10-year tax abatement on new construction, which has been at least partially responsible for the hot housing market in those neighborhoods.

Council passed a bill to allow gentrification relief this spring, and last week Gov. Corbett signed a law allowing the tax break to be based on income and need.

There is $20 million available in the city's budget for PHL Tax LOOP. (The letters stand for Longtime Owner Occupants Program.) Council and administration officials believe that is enough to cover all eligible homeowners.

Nutter and other officials promoted the program at a news conference Tuesday. The mailings will include a brochure and an application with much of the information pre-entered.

"Fill it out, return it to the city," Nutter said. "It is literally that easy."

Eligible homeowners affected by the reassessment will have one chance to enroll in the program - the deadline is Jan. 15, although Council plans to debate a bill Thursday that would extend the deadline to Feb. 17.

To be eligible, a homeowner must have lived since July 1, 2003, in a residence where the assessment has at least tripled this year - even after the $30,000 homestead exemption available to all homeowners.

Other requirements include:

The property must be single-family or a multiunit property with up to three residential units and one commercial unit.

The property has never had a tax abatement.

Property taxes are up to date, or the owner has applied for, or is meeting the terms of, a payment plan.

The homeowner meets income requirement based on household size. For example, a household of four would have to have an income of no more than $118,800 to be eligible.

Not all 80,000 homeowners who receive the mailing will be eligible. All applicants will be notified if they have been approved for the program by late March, Nutter said.

More information is available online at www.phila.gov/loop, where the city has included a tool to help homeowners determine eligibility.


tgraham@phillynews.com

215-854-2730 @troyjgraham

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