Philly Council looks at easing property tax burden … and legalizing backyard chickens

Plus: Interactive map shows how much assessments changed for more than 400,000 single-family homes
Backyard chicken
A bill before Philadelphia City Council would make it legal once again to raise chickens in residential backyards in the city. Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Council will consider four bills, introduced Thursday, that would relieve some of the impact from new citywide property tax assessments. Other bills introduced at Thursday's session would restore the city’s tree canopy, create a city job training program … and one would legalize backyard chickens again.

Council got three measures the administration of Mayor Jim Kenney promised when it was clear new assessments would produce some sharply higher tax bills next year. One would reduce the wage tax over two years from 3.8% to 3.7% for residents and 3.44% for non-residents. It would also make a slight adjustment that will reduce taxes for certain service-oriented businesses.

Another expands the homestead exemption for people who own the homes they live in. Currently the first $45,000 of assessed value is tax exempt. That would grow to $65,000.

The third would put another $5 million dollars into the program for longtime owner-occupants, known as LOOP, that limits how much their taxes can increase in a single year.

The first reassessment in three years resulted in a median increase in assessed value of 31% for single-family homes, but some individuals saw their assessments double or even triple in value. To help residents prepare for Tax Year 2023, the Office of City Controller has created an interactive heat map to show the assessment changes.

“We hope that this map will be used as a tool by City Council and residents alike to understand trends in assessed value changes and bring much needed transparency to the reassessment process,” said City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart in an official statement introducing the map.

The map shows each property colored according to the percent change from the assessed value in 2022 to the assessed value in 2023.

According to her office, more than 100,000 property assessments increased by 50% or more, 30,000 increased by 100% or more, 6,000 increased by 200% or more, and 4,000 increased by 300% or more.

Councilmember Brian O’Neill also introduced a bill to allow low-income seniors to get into the senior tax freeze program right now — before their assessments increase.

Councilmember Kathy Gilmore Richardson’s bill would create a Tree Fund and require trees in certain areas, such as buffers between highways and residences. Council President Darrell Clarke proposed asking voters to put a Division of Jobs and Training in the Commerce Department.

Finally, councilmember Curtis Jones is behind a bill to make it legal for residents to keep chickens in their backyards.

Chickens have been outlawed in Philadelphia since 2004, when Council passed O’Neill’s bill banning farm animals in the city, after complaints about noise and odor. Jones says residents have learned a lot about food and sustainability since then, and his bill, which would remove chickens from the list of banned animals, responds to these new realities.

O’Neill is likely to exempt his district in the far northeast.