City Council to vote on 'anti-poverty' package of tax bills

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For at least a decade, Philadelphia City Council has been trying to expand the power that the city charter gives it, through budget maneuvers and charter change legislation.

But its boldest move yet may be a package of tax bills it's set to vote on this week, which will fund Council's own anti-poverty plan.

The bills create a 1% tax on residential development, and reduce the tax abatement on commercial property by 10%, measures that are estimated to generate around $18 million a year.

That would fund a $400 million bond issue for what Council is calling the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative. Goals include more affordable housing, renovations to allow low income and disabled people to remain in their homes, more diversity in construction jobs and support for neighborhood commercial corridors.

The bills passed the committee of the whole after an eight-hour hearing, where housing advocates applauded the bills while developers warned of the impact on the city's growth. Councilman Derek Green spoke for a minority of Council members who voted against the bill, arguing the current COVID-19 recession is the wrong time to levy new taxes. That drew a polite but firm rebuke from Council president Darrell Clarke.

"I have more shovels (from groundbreakings) in my office than anyone on this call," said Clarke.

"I know the industry. I know the fact that they've had some challenges but they have suffered nowhere close to the level of decline that people in these neighborhoods have had so when people come to me and start crying poor, they don't know what poor is."

The taxes would take effect January 1, 2022.