Guest Commentary from state Rep. John Taylor

Taylor's take on the Phil­adelphia land bank. 

Most neigh­bor­hood act­iv­ists will tell you the longer a va­cant prop­erty sits un­oc­cu­pied, the more vul­ner­able it be­comes to van­dal­ism and de­cay – and the more likely sur­round­ing prop­er­ties will ex­per­i­ence sim­il­ar de­cay and de­struc­tion.

It’s a known fact that left un­checked, blight will spread block by block un­til the whole neigh­bor­hood is en­gulfed and even­tu­ally des­troyed.

Long-term un­col­lec­ted prop­erty tax de­lin­quen­cies are a ma­jor factor in cre­at­ing blight that leads to prop­erty aban­don­ment – nev­er mind the im­pact on the city’s fin­ances when an es­tim­ated $300 mil­lion in de­lin­quent taxes re­main un­col­lec­ted for the past five years.

Phil­adelphia is of­ten cited as a bad ex­ample of what hap­pens when a loc­al gov­ern­ment fails to im­ple­ment ef­fect­ive and fair prop­erty tax col­lec­tion. A num­ber of one-time stable neigh­bor­hoods have been des­troyed be­cause Phil­adelphia does not ad­equately col­lect de­lin­quent prop­erty taxes, nor does the City move quickly to sell tax de­lin­quent prop­er­ties at sher­iff’s sale.

With new le­gis­lat­ive tools avail­able, we can be­gin to fight blight and re­claim some of our lost neigh­bor­hoods and put these prop­er­ties back on the tax rolls. Un­der my le­gis­la­tion, Act 153 of 2013, Phil­adelphia can now cre­ate a land bank, which is a gov­ern­ment­al or non­profit en­tity that ac­quires, holds, and man­ages tax fore­closed, aban­doned prop­er­ties. The main pur­pose of a land bank is to re­turn va­cant, aban­doned and tax de­lin­quent prop­er­ties to pro­duct­ive re-use in ac­cord­ance with loc­al and re­gion­al plans for smart growth and de­vel­op­ment.

Ad­di­tion­ally, I am work­ing with Rep. Chris Ross (R- Chester) to en­act HB 1409, which will mod­ern­ize and stream­line col­lec­tion of de­lin­quent prop­erty taxes, by cent­ral­iz­ing all five state laws cur­rently used to col­lect de­lin­quent due taxes, in one loc­a­tion. 

We know times are tough and good people can’t al­ways pay their taxes on time. We’ve taken that in­to ac­count by bal­an­cing the rights of timely tax­pay­ers with con­sid­er­a­tion for folks who have run in­to hard times. The goal is to en­sure that ac­counts are paid and paid on time, but with op­tions for hard­ship cases to enter in­to monthly pay­ment agree­ments.

While it is not the easi­est of prob­lems to fix, mod­ern­iz­ing the way Phil­adelphia deals with blighted, va­cant, tax de­lin­quent prop­er­ties will be­ne­fit all of us and im­prove the over­all qual­ity of life for thou­sands of Phil­adelphi­ans. 

—State Rep­res­ent­at­ive John Taylor, (R-177th dist.) 

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