During the first half of September, the city is expected to start mailing new property assessments, the first in three years. Residential property values went up by an average of 31%, prompting city lawmakers and the Kenney administration to push solutions aimed at reducing property taxes, particularly for Black and Latino homeowners in rapidly gentrifying sections of Philadelphia.
It’s why amending the homestead program became central to last month’s budget agreement between the administration and City Council. Mayor Kenney wanted to raise the deduction to $65,000. Members of Council, including Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, wanted to raise it to $90,000, the state maximum.
In the end, the sides settled on $80,000.
Johnson, who pushed the increase as part of his “Save our Homes” plan, said raising the homestead exemption helps those who need it most — people, as he put it, making the choice between paying for daycare for their children and paying their property taxes so they can keep a roof over their head.
“This tax relief proposal, it will allow for everyone to have some level of benefit. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure that individuals who are most vulnerable, predominantly in Black and brown neighborhoods, which are gentrified, we want to make sure they don’t lose their homes,” said Johnson.
In an email, mayoral spokesperson Kevin Lessard echoed that sentiment, saying the goal of the new homestead exemption is to “reduce the impact of the assessment increase, particularly to those most impacted, but not necessarily to eliminate all increases.”
“The City also included relief measures other than homesteads so just looking at homesteads doesn’t capture everything we did to help property owners,” said Lessard.
Johnson’s “Save Our Homes” plan also included changes to another pair of longstanding tax relief programs —- the Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP) and the Low-Income Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Freeze.
Mayor Kenney signed the bills into law during a Wednesday afternoon ceremony at City Hall.