In Limbo: Philadelphia's Construction Tax for Affordable Housing

It's been radio silence from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney since the City Council approved a dedicated stream of funding for affordable housing.
August 14, 2018, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jon Bilous

In June, the Philadelphia City Council approved a construction tax to generate funding for affordable housing. With a 9-8 vote, the approval was three votes short of a veto-proof margin.

Now, nearly two months later, Mayor Jim Kenney Has not indicated his plans for the legislation, and the deadline for a signature, September 13, is rapidly approaching.

Inga Saffron reports on what's known about the construction tax's current state of limbo:

Jim Engler, the mayor’s new chief of staff, insists the administration is merely using the summer recess to study the legislation, but Kenney has made no secret of his distaste for the proposal, which uses a tax on market-rate construction to pay for subsidized housing. Housing advocates are convinced he will use his veto power for the first time since taking office in 2016 to kill the measure, and they’ve started a social media campaign to ratchet up the pressure. Still, a high-ranking elected official told me, “I’d be really shocked if he doesn’t veto it.”

Saffron continues to present both sides of the case for creating this new tax in Philadelphia, and places it in context of other housing-related policies in the city, such as a forthcoming comprehensive housing strategy [pdf] and the city's beleaguered property tax abatement program. Saffron expresses reservations about how the new tax might complicate efforts to reform the property tax abatement program.

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Published on Thursday, August 9, 2018 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
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