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Coalition calls for extra tax on 'flipped' houses to keep long-term residents in homes

The group says $12 million a year could be raised to help the residents stay in their neighborhoods as gentrification increases

Houses on Cecil B. Moore Avenue are examples of gentrification. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Houses on Cecil B. Moore Avenue are examples of gentrification. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

THE PHILADELPHIA Coalition for Affordable Communities yesterday called for a new "anti-speculation tax" that would increase the real-estate transfer tax by 1.5 percent for certain properties that are "flipped" by investors.

"By increasing the Realty Transfer Tax by 1.5 percent, we could generate $12 million for the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund every year," according to the report, titled "Development Without Displacement."

The housing trust fund provides money, usually to community development corporations or other nonprofits, to develop new affordable housing and help existing homeowners make critical repairs.

Coalition members said the anti-speculation tax would only apply to properties that were sold two or more times within a two-year period.

"We are for development, because the city desperately needs the rising tax base to pay for schools and other services," said Nora Lichtash, executive director of the Women's Community Revitalization Project, and a principal organizer of the coalition. "We need development, but we want to make sure there is development without displacing the folks that have worked forever to keep their neighborhoods strong, but are getting pushed out."

The coalition, formed last September, released this first policy report at a City Hall news conference yesterday. Its recommendation is based on research from Econsult, a Philadelphia consulting firm.

The report found three neighborhoods in particular "where gentrification is at work": South Philadelphia, West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia.

"In these places, rising housing costs coupled with stagnant or declining incomes put low-income families at risk of displacement," it said.

The full report is on the coalition's website, PhillyAffordable

It includes stories of people who have been displaced, like Dena Salley, who said dramatically rising apartment rents in her North Philadelphia neighborhood near Temple University meant she and her husband had to move.

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson attended the news conference but has not taken a position on a specific policy.

"I think we should examine ways to increase our investment in affordable housing without raising any taxes or discouraging development,"Johnson said.

The report came one day before tonight's Mayoral Candidates' Forum on Equitable Development at Temple University.

Sponsored by the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, the forum will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today at the Science, Education and Research Center at 12th and Berks streets. Daily News Editorial Page Editor Sandra Shea will moderate.

Though she said the PACDC has not yet made a decision on the anti-speculation tax, Beth McConnell, PACDC's policy director, added: "We do believe that Philadelphia can afford to invest more significantly in the housing trust fund."