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On Thursday, Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier will introduce a legislative package designed to protect low-income tenants and homeowners against displacement while providing more funding for affordable housing projects.
Gauthier, one of Council’s most vocal housing advocates, hopes to help residents trying to rent on the private market through the Housing Choice Voucher Program; homeowners burdened by increased property taxes; and neighborhoods that desperately need affordable housing.
The effort comes as the city continues to experience an affordable housing crisis compounded by historically high rents and mortgage rates, a reality Gauthier fears will make Philadelphia unaffordable for its most vulnerable residents if left unchecked.
“We want to grow. We want to welcome new people. We don’t want to do that at the expense of the people who have been here,” said Gauthier, who chairs Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless.
The package, part of Gauthier’s “Defying Displacement” campaign, primarily aims to aid Black and brown residents with low incomes, including constituents in her 3rd District, which includes swiftly gentrifying sections of West Philadelphia such as University City.
One bill would enable eligible residents to effectively freeze their property tax bill regardless of how much the tax rate or assessed property value increases. Under the measure, a single-person household must earn below $33,500 per year and $41,500 for a couple. The totals are tied to enabling legislation former Gov. Tom Wolf signed in 2022.
During Philadelphia’s last round of property assessments, the value of the average residential property increased by 31%, burdening thousands of homeowners with significantly higher property tax bills. Some residents saw their home value increase by 50% or more.
Currently, Philadelphia only allows senior citizens with low incomes to freeze their property taxes. The income requirements are identical to Gauthier’s bill, which is patterned off legislation introduced by former City Councilmember Cherelle Parker on behalf of former Council President Darrell Clarke in 2022. Keeping residents in their homes is part of Mayor Parker’s 100-day Action Plan.
Gauthier will also introduce legislation that seeks to strengthen the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits landlords and property managers from discriminating against people based on what’s known as “source of income,” including anyone who would pay with a housing voucher.