Preservation Through Property Tax: The Impacts of Philadelphia's 10-Year Property tax Abatement on Historic Preservation
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Philadelphia’s 10-year property tax abatement program has proven effective as a transformative force throughout the city by offering a 10-year abatement on the taxable value of any improvements on a structure or land. Originally implemented in a vastly different real estate market than exists today, the abatement has had profound economic impact, yet has been heavily criticized by some of its varied stakeholders as a drain on municipal finances. Regarding historic preservation, the abatement has existed with a dual nature: while it serves as a key factor in rehabilitation financing on large projects throughout the city, it also incentivizes demolition of “soft site” (i.e. sites that could be officially designated, but aren’t and/or have a zoning envelope far exceeding what actually exists) historic fabric with replacement of larger structures. Using a series of maps, comparable abatement policies from other cities, and case studies of regulatory gaps within the preservation system, this thesis examines the impacts of the abatement on historic preservation in Philadelphia and culminates in a series of recommendations to improve the policy. These recommendations are geared toward advocating for a more targeted approach, altering of the policy to be better suited towards stopping historic demolitions, and reforming the abatement to benefit historic rehabilitation.