Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ravaged by neglect

Ravaged by neglect


The city’s lax collection of property taxes and low rate of foreclosures result in dilapidated properties like this rowhouse at 239 N. Paxon St. in West Philadelphia. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

For decades, City Hall has been an indifferent steward of Philadelphia's most elemental resource: the land itself. The result has been low collection rates on real estate taxes, inaccurate property assessments, suspect property data, and poor management of thousands of parcels owned by city agencies.

Delinquent owner helps city sell properties
Video: Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez discusses the problem of vacant houses
Graphic: Trailing the pack on taxes
Graphic: City's enforcement is futile
Graphic: Under Nutter, lower tax collections and fewer sales of city-owned land

This boarded-up rowhouse with a chair on its front stoop at 3831 Cambridge St. in West Philadelphia is owned by Antoine Gardiner. He and his property management company, Bizness As Usual, owe $471,000 in back taxes on 58 properties, public records show. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia's decades-long neglect of property-tax collections has been a disaster for public schools, the city budget, and typical taxpaying homeowners. But the system does have its advantages for low-rent landlords, out-of-town speculators, and anyone else interested in playing property Powerball.

On Webster Street, neighbors 'just wanted to make a difference'
On N. 9th St., empty lots, vacant homes, and, nearby, hope
Graphics: Low-Income Neighborhoods Hardest Hit
Graphic: Investors dominate delinquencies

Block captain Luisa Bearg points out the long-abandoned, dilapidated rowhouse at 4424 N. Orianna St., that has depressed property values in the Feltonville neighborhood. The property owes the city $5,780 for six years of taxes. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer.

Philadelphia's failure to enforce tax law has diminished both quality of life and property values. A single ruinous, tax-delinquent house in the working-class 4400 block of North Orianna Street in the city's Feltonville section has lowered the value of the homes within 500 feet by a total of $38,000, a new analysis finds.

Urban economist Kevin Gillen explains his analysis of how property tax delinquency hurts property values in Philadelphia. View video | Read more (.pdf)
News video