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Vacant Property System Reform Advancing

The recent flurry of news coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer and PlanPhilly around property tax delinquencies and vacant property has brought public attention to the City’s broken property tax collection system and its impact on efforts to redevelop vacant properties.   

PACDC staff and its Vacant Property Working Group have been working with the Nutter Administration, City Council and state-level stakeholders to advance reform of the City’s Vacant Property Management System.  This work includes implementation of the two-phased approach to create a Philadelphia Land Bank which PACDC proposed nearly three years ago. 

Here are some recent developments:

  • PACDC’s Vacant Property Working Group met in May with Commissioner Fran Burns and staff from the Department of Licenses and Inspections to discuss their pilot code enforcement initiative targeting vacant properties in more stable neighborhoods and owners of multiple properties with many violations. 
  • At the end of May, Mayor Nutter identified the Redevelopment Authority as the “Front Door”/single administrative agency for accessing vacant property from the City in coordination with the Managing Director’s Office.  In effect, the MDO will be the executive overseer of land systems with the RDA in charge of program implementation.  PACDC views this as an important interim “virtual Land Bank” step toward consolidation of ownership of publically held surplus properties in a single entity Philadelphia Land Bank.  The Administration’s vacant property group is currently “focused on the need for a land bank to further consolidate properties and provide new tools to dispose of and maintain vacant properties.” 
  • PACDC has been working concurrently to facilitate our member CDCs’ access to surplus properties from the Philadelphia Housing Authority. 
  • In June, State Representative John Taylor reintroduced state enabling legislation for local Land Banks, and state legislation has been drafted by Representative Chris Ross to reform the tax sale/collection process.  PACDC is an active member of the state Land Bank Working Group led by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.
  • In June, a local “placeholder” Land Bank ordinance was introduced in City Council by Councilmembers Sanchez and Green.  PACDC’s Vacant Property Working Group has held discussions with the sponsors on the contents of the bill and how the Land Bank should be structured.
  • In August, the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia posted an updated, merged public property inventory in excel format on their web site, including properties held by RDA, PHDC, PHA and Public Property (see related article, Updated Public Property Listing/PACDC Mapping Available).
  • Also in August, PACDC met with the Department of License and Inspections and Councilwoman Sanchez’s office to discuss the City’s Vacant Property License requirements and possible changes.
  • Over the last few months, the City has also made $7 million dollars in payments into court to address outstanding lien issues on properties previously disposed of by the City without clean title.

PACDC has identified reform of the City’s vacant property management system as a high priority, and will continue to work to advance effective system change.