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AVI, the Actual Value Initiative, is the City of Philadelphia’s effort to overhaul its property tax system. It is a hot-button issue in the city as property owners were mailed their new assessments beginning in mid-February.
This re-evaluation has been a long time coming: Many properties’ assessments bore little relationship to their actual market value, and some assessments were completely off-kilter compared to similar properties in the same neighborhood or even right next door. Quite a few properties had not been formally reassessed since the 1980s. Knowing that they paid quite a bit less in property taxes than residents of other major cities (but more in wage taxes), many Philadelphians seemed happy to back-burner the issue.
No longer can anyone hide, however. As this map shows, certain neighborhoods (look for the red on the map) will see significant increases in their taxes beginning with property taxes due in early 2014. Many of these are places that have gentrified in the past 15 years — Graduate Hospital, Point Breeze (still on its way), Northern Liberties, and others. For those property owners who are shocked by the numbers in their reassessment, it is up to them to act and work to prove that a property’s market value is being over-estimated. Proposals to provide tax relief are in the works, and a homestead exemption is already available. The homestead exemption is explained here.
For a more complete, easy-to-read overview of the AVI initiative, please see this report from The Pew Charitable Trusts.