Clarke: Boost transfer tax to rehab city housing stock

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke is looking to pump $100 million into preserving Philadelphia's aging housing stock, including giving owners of deteriorating homes loans for repairs.

He has proposed paying for the effort with a bond, and on Thursday introduced legislation to pay the debt service on that borrowing with a 0.1 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax.

Clarke said he wanted to "expeditiously change neighborhoods."

"Not little, rehab four or five houses at a time," he said. "That will never get us to where we need to get. There's a sense of urgency out in a lot of neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia."

Under Clarke's proposal, $60 million would be used to clear the backlog in the two existing city programs, one that provides free basic electrical, plumbing, and heating repairs, and a second that pays for home modifications for those with disabilities.

The remaining $40 million would be used to create an affordable home repair program for low-income homeowners.

The city real estate transfer tax Clarke is looking to tap, currently 3 percent, is levied any time real estate is sold in the city. A 0.1 percent increase would raise the tax on a $100,000 sale by $100.

The tax increase, which would expire in 2027, would bring in about $8 million to $9.5 million annually, Clarke said.

His call for a large bond comes as Mayor Kenney is seeking to take out a $300 million bond to fund repairs to the city's parks and recreation centers.

Clarke said he was not concerned about the city's taking on debt for his program because he would rather see the city address the problem "in a meaningful way" rather than in "dribs and drabs."