On a sunny afternoon, Antonio and Marie Cordero Bonaparte were decorating a dead tree stump with dabs of bright paint in front of their North Philadelphia home. For them, small gestures of beautification like these in the predominantly working-class, Latino neighborhood are a one more big reason people move into expensive new building near Norris Square.
“If we didn’t clean up our block and it was a seedy place, nobody would be interested in living here,” Antonio Bonaparte said.
But now the taxes are going up.
Bonaparte was shocked to learn the latest week that some property assessments in the neighborhood more than doubled under the city’s most recent property reassessment. He has seen with his own eyes how these hikes can change a neighborhood.
READ MORE: Rapidly gentrifying parts of Brewerytown and West Philly could see major tax hikes after new property reassessment
When the Bonapartes moved to Rue Mascher after rising taxes and rents, many Puerto Rican families out of the Fairmount neighborhood in the 1960s, they were the only Latin American family on a German and Polish block. He inherited his townhouse from his father and plans to pass it on to his daughter.
“I’m too old to move out and start all over again. I’m retired, I have a pacemaker and a defibrillator, and I’m not going anywhere before the cemetery,” Bonaparte, 64, said.
Property records show the Bonapartes are enrolled in a city relief program that will shield them from a major tax hike, but the couple feared longtime neighbors would survive without help.
While reassessments have been a political flashpoint in Philadelphia for decades, areas of gentrification like this — where new home construction is rampant and local leaders fear that rising property taxes will hasten the displacement of longtime black or Latino communities — have increasingly become battlegrounds over city tax policy.
Philadelphia’s new property reassessment, its first in three years, is driving up residential property values by an average of 31% across the city, but an Inquirer analysis of assessment data found residents in some developing areas fast could see increases three to eight times higher.
On On Bonaparte’s block around Norris Square, median property valuations soared 104% from $57,200 to $116,800. Three miles away, in Brewerytown, where new construction is booming, some areas saw median property values increase by more than 75%, while whiter areas of the city saw greater percentage increases. modest.
The Inquirer analysis, which is based on assessment data pulled from the city’s website on Monday, raises questions about fairness and the city’s new methodology, but the Office of Property Assessment has yet to released full details of how it assessed the properties.
The 2018 and 2019 reassessments raised the median value of single-family homes by 10.5% and 3.1%, respectively, and resulted in major tax hikes for thousands of homeowners, sparking anger and scrutiny scrutiny of the taxpayers and of the municipal council. This year’s reassessment is the first after the city implemented a long-delayed new computer system, made other improvements and secured a new chief assessor.
In an interview, OPA Director James Aros Jr. said the city tried to correct past inaccuracies and bring the city’s 580,000 properties into line with real estate. market growth.
“We have analyzed several new years of sales since the last revaluation, and expect these revaluations to better reflect current market conditions,” Aros said.
READ MORE: What we know about how Philly conducted the citywide 2023 land reassessment
Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council are negotiating relief options as well as adjustments to the city’s payroll tax to help ease the financial pinch as they work to pass a budget for the next exercise by June 30. But this budget could be finalized months before owners receive notices in the mail about their new values.
Many internet savvy homeowners have researched the value of their new property on the city website. But the city said it could not send official mail invitations until September, one month before the deadline for appeals. Officials attribute the delay to supply chain issues and difficulty obtaining envelopes.
Advocates for low-income homeowners have said that many be confused by the notices, with little time to process the tax relief and appeal options that could save them thousands of dollars.
“They do not understand [the notice], they ignore it and when they get their tax bill in December, they missed the deadline for the informal appeal,” said Jonathan Sgro, attorney at Community Legal Services. “The city needs more aggressive outreach and education.”
The most popular break is the Homestead Exemption, which reduces the assessed value by $45,000 for owner-occupied residences, and municipal authorities are seeking to increase this amount to $65,000. The Long-Time Homeownership Program helps eligible homeowners facing assessment increases of 50% or more, and there is also a tax freeze alternative for low-income seniors. About 78% of homeowners participate in at least one tax relief program, according to the OPA.
But for less tech-savvy homeowners — especially the elderly or those with poor English skills — it can be difficult to learn about and access these fallback options.
“The next two weeks, our job is basically to explain in Spanish what it means to the neighbors, to seat them one by one, to enter their [address] in the site and do what the government is supposed to do, to make sure they understand what is going on,” said Michelle Carrera Morales, executive director of Norris Square Action Alliance.
Some homeowners were shocked to learn from an Inquirer reporter that their home had doubled in assessed value.
Judith Robinson, a North Philadelphia community activist who works in real estate, said she plans to challenge the assessment of her longtime North Philadelphia home, which has gone from $58,200 to $109,000. $, an increase of 87%.
“I encourage the whole community — long-time owners — to challenge their ratings, because it’s such a hodgepodge of numbers,” Robinson said.
City officials expect 15,000 to 18,000 calls this year. Housing advocates, meanwhile, are concerned about the impact on low-income renters, whose landlords cannot benefit from these relief measures and can pass the tax increases on to renters.
At El Sabor, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Norris Square Park, business owner Billy Joe Diana said he could afford the tax increases at properties he owns in the neighborhood, but he predicts that cash-strapped elders will accept cheap offers to sell their homes if money is getting tight.
“The city only cares about the money,” Diana said of the ratings. “It’s wrong against people who have lived here for a long time.”
However, not everyone is so concerned about hiking.
Kim Correa, who grew up in the neighborhood, said she and her siblings helped their mother pay the bills and the neighborhood’s increased desirability had benefits. “I like that it’s a lot nicer,” Correa said. “We are finally seeing different faces.”
But the revaluation has also sent home values skyrocketing in parts of North and West Philadelphia that have seen less private market interest in recent years, and poverty levels remain worse than ever. .
Part of North Philadelphia The Glenwood section has seen single-family homes previously valued at $39,100 on average – so a homeowner with property exemption wouldn’t have to pay taxes – soar to $126,800 on average, a spike a surprising 224%.
Mike Suley, former Allegheny County chief assessor, said Philadelphia officials made a “big mistake” in releasing the new assessment values without first explaining the methodology and identifying tax offsets.
“It’s going to scare people in those poorer areas,” Suley said. “They need the government to assure them that we won’t pay a penny more than their fair share of taxes.”
Writer Sean Collins Walsh contributed to this article.