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.)