PlanPhilly

Ravaged by Neglect

    • Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez stands in front of 2432 N. 4th Street, a blighted, tax delinquent property in her district March 1, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)

A proposal for financing properties acquired by the Philadelphia Land Bank

The Philadelphia Land Bank needs a source of funding to pay for the maintenance of the blighted vacant buildings and lots that it will be acquiring, owning, and holding until they…

    • A tax-delinquent property on the 2100 block of North Ninth Street. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)

Inquirer Editorial: Collect them all

Could this be the end of Philadelphia's optional property tax? A number of new collection and enforcement policies are communicating the message that the city's real estate levy is - contrary…

    • 3831 Cambridge, property traced to Antoine Gardiner and photographed February 22, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)

Special report: Signs of progress amid delinquency crisis

Philadelphia's massive property tax delinquency tab continued to grow over the past year, rising from $515 million in April 2012 to $522 million this April, city records show. For the first…

    • 9 diamond

Pew study estimates 70 percent of delinquent property tax is uncollectable

A study released Thursday by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that if Philadelphia were to effectively use all the legal tools at its disposal to collect delinquent property taxes, it could…

    • 1800 block of N. Marston

Sizing up a flurry of blight and delinquency legislation

Between the fatal building collapse on Market Street and heightened focus on the blight-spreading delinquency epidemic, lawmakers in City Hall and the state capital are - at least for now…

    • Sanchez and Green

City Council adopts delinquent tax collection overhaul

Philadelphia's City Council approved a top-to-bottom overhaul of the city's troubled property tax collection system Thursday, the latest in a series of state and local reforms designed to curb Philadelphia's worst-in-the-nation…

    • 1222 and 1224 W. Harold Street, Philadelphia March 6, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)

Inquirer / PlanPhilly tax delinquency chat with Patrick Kerkstra and Kevin Gillen

This is the transcript from the live chat session with journalist Patrick Kerkstra and University of Pennsylvania urban economist, Kevin Gillen at noon on Wednesday. The subject was “Ravaged By Neglect,…

    • Signe Wilkinson delinquency cartoon in Philadelphia Inquirer

City leaders send stark message to Nutter: Collect taxes

Two days before Mayor Nutter is scheduled to deliver his budget address, a host of city leaders called on his administration to improve its performance in the collection of delinquent property…

    • Please Clean and Repair Me

Ravaged by Neglect, Part Four: The challenge of fixing Philadelphia’s broken approach to land use

In many ways, and for many years, Philadelphia has failed to implement a practical and effective strategy for collecting delinquent property taxes and putting vacant land and blighted buildings into productive…

    • Catharine St
Eyes on the Street

Neglect by the Numbers: Delinquency Index

The causes, costs, and effects of property tax delinquency - detailed in this week's PlanPhilly/Inquirer investigative series - are staggering. Here's a by-the-numbers breakdown of the city's complex tax delinquency issues…

    • Guy Thigpen's tax delinquent property is the structure with the window missing, orange notice on door

How blight fighter became trapped in tax delinquency

On the short block of South 47th Street between Paschall and Grays Ferry avenues there is a typical row of once-lovely, now- busted brick rowhouses. Porches sag, windows are broken and…

    • north 9th 2

Ravaged by Neglect, Part Three: Delinquents enabled by city's failings

For decades, City Hall has been an indifferent steward of Philadelphia’s most elemental resource: the land itself. The result has been low collection rates on real estate taxes, inaccurate property assessments,…

    • blight2 bw
Eyes on the Street

See how property tax delinquency affects you

One stunning effect of Philadelphia's property tax delinquency problem is diminshed property values across the city that reduce the city's tax base by about 10% or $9.5 billion. But what does…

    • 816 S. 19th Street

In some cases, new assessments could bloat delinquent bills

The 800 block of South 19th Street flows through the heart of southwest Center City, the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood known, alternatively, as the Graduate Hospital area (G-Ho) and South of South.…

    • north 9th 4

On one block, more than $200,000 in uncollected revenue

The 2100 block of North 9th Street—between Diamond and Susquehanna, just northeast of Temple University—looks as though it’s being eaten alive. Between the still-standing, three-story brick houses, conspicuous patches of empty…

    • 6061 Webster Street

When neighbors are pushed to make blight fight their own battle

Maybe it was the tall weeds, or the busted windows, or the leaks damaging the neighbor's home, or the fear of a fire, but Denise Lewis and her neighbors on Webster…

    • 3831 Cambridge, property traced to Antoine Gardiner and photographed February 22, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)

Ravaged by Neglect, Part Two: A broken property tax system where everyone loses, except investors

Philadelphia's decades-long neglect of property tax collections has been a disaster for public schools, the city budget, and typical taxpaying homeowners. But the system does have its advantages for low-rent landlords,…

    • rbn 01

Part One: Lax property tax enforcement and brazen deadbeat investors have depressed Philadelphia’s property-tax base by $9.5 billion

The neighbors did what they could to dress up the gaping wound on their block. They painted the steps black and the porch a bold bluish-green. In the fall, they put…

    • blight bw

How we estimated the economic value and neighborhood impact of tax-delinquent properties in Philadelphia

PlanPhilly hired Kevin Gillen, a senior research consultant at the Fels School of Government, to perform an independent analysis gauging the impact of real estate tax delinquency on the property values…

About This Series
    • Seymour and Keyser streets
      Seymour and Keyser streets
    • Exhibit A
      Exhibit A
    • Exhibit A, continued
      Exhibit A, continued
    • Exhibit B
      Exhibit B
    • Exhibit B, continued
      Exhibit B, continued
    • Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez stands in front of 2432 N. 4th Street, a blighted, tax delinquent property in her district March 1, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)
      Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez stands in front of 2432 N. 4th Street, a blighted, tax delinquent property in her district March 1, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)
    • A tax-delinquent property on the 2100 block of North Ninth Street. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
      A tax-delinquent property on the 2100 block of North Ninth Street. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
    • 3831 Cambridge, property traced to Antoine Gardiner and photographed February 22, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)
      3831 Cambridge, property traced to Antoine Gardiner and photographed February 22, 2013. (David Swanson / Inquirer Staff Photographer)
    • Number of Properties by Collectability Score
      Number of Properties by Collectability Score
    • 9 diamond
      9 diamond
  • Previous
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Part 1: The staggering true costs of Philadelphia’s tax delinquency epidemic.
Part 2: Who’s to blame? The delinquents, and the neighborhoods they damage.
Part 3: Enabling deadbeats. The city’s failings, and some potential fixes. 
Part 4: Best practices and some possible solutions 

About this project: For this effort between the Philadelphia InquirerPlanPhilly and AxisPhilly, Patrick Kerkstra interviewed property owners, city officials and redevelopment experts and analyzed millions of property, delinquency, billing and code violation records. The reporting was complemented by an economic analysis of delinquency’s impact on property values by Kevin Gillen. The project was made possible through funding by the William Penn Foundation. Contributors include AxisPhilly's news application editor, Casey Thomas, PlanPhilly journalists Jared Brey and Ashley Hahn, researchers Evan Croen, James Robertson and John Dailey and designer John Suvannavejh.

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