Clarke calls for extension of homestead exemption deadline

Council President Darrell Clarke wants details on how the new assessments were calculated. (David M. Warren / Staff Photographer)

With just a little over two months left for Philadelphia homeowners to turn in their homestead applications, City Council is concerned that hundreds of thousands of eligible applicants --mostly in the city's poorest neighborhoods may not make the July 31 deadline.

"The worst thing that could happen is we get to the July 31 deadline and we have a significant number of people who have not applied," said Council president Darrell Clarke. "That could be problematic for people in our districts."

Clarke proposed Thursday a bill to extend the deadline for homestead applications to September 30. The homestead exemption would lower a home's taxable value by $30,000 under the city's Actual Value Initiative, but 48 percent of 347,777 eligible homeowners have not applied.

Council members have criticized the Nutter administration's outreach efforts. Information about the homestead was mailed to homeowners in English only with translations in several languages available only online.

Clarke says there needs to be a targeted outreach effort including one-on-one sit down sessions to educate Philadelphians about the homestead. The Nutter administration held a series of AVI outreach sessions that concluded at the end of March. Council members have used campaign dollars to do targeted mailing.

A recent Council analysis of AVI showed that 70 percent of homeowners could see their tax bills drop if every eligible homeowner applied for the homestead exemption.

Meanwhile Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill to extend the homestead exemption deadline for anyone who buys a house between now and Dec. 1.