Over the past five years, the number of mortgage foreclosures filed per month in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has remained roughly the same, but there has been a dramatic increase in filings of a different type of foreclosure: municipal property tax foreclosures. In 2010, the city of Philadelphia filed approximately 815 property tax foreclosures. In 2015, the city filed approximately 10,875 property tax foreclosures—two-thirds of which involved properties zoned for residential use. During this same period, property tax problems became the most common reason low-income Philadelphians came to Community Legal Services’ north Philadelphia office, jumping from only 78 property tax intakes in 2010 to 398 in 2015. Just as CLS was on the forefront in responding to the mortgage foreclosure crisis in Philadelphia, confronted with a new foreclosure crisis, CLS has led the effort to protect families and seniors who are at risk of losing their homes due to delinquent property taxes.
Preserving homeownership for low-income people is essential to promoting stability in families, health, education and employment. It protects a valuable financial asset and preserves intergenerational wealth, which is central to breaking the cycle of poverty. In a city with a high rate of poverty and a high rate of low-income homeownership, CLS’s work saving family homes from foreclosure also preserves Philadelphia’s largest stock of affordable housing.
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