Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill to Shield Pittsburgh Homeowners from Skyrocketing Property Taxes

Capitol Dome HarrisburgCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — On Wednesday, State Senator Jay Costa celebrated the Senate’s 46-4 passage of the Longtime Owner Occupant Tax Exemption Program (LOOP), a measure designed to protect Pittsburgh homeowners from rising property taxes in rapidly developing neighborhoods. If the state House approves Senate Bill 219 and Governor Josh Shapiro signs it, Pittsburgh’s mayor and city council will gain the authority to exempt or defer property tax hikes for longtime residents in specific areas.

What SB 219 Entails

Senate Bill 219 amends the existing First and Second Class County Property Tax Relief Act, expanding it to include cities, such as Pittsburgh. The goal is to provide relief to homeowners who have lived in their residences for a substantial period but face potential displacement due to increased property values and corresponding tax burdens.

The LOOP program will allow Pittsburgh to create a targeted property tax relief plan. It will be based on years of home ownership and increases in property taxes resulting from neighborhood development. This means that homeowners in areas experiencing significant economic growth could see their property tax increases deferred or exempted, protecting them from being priced out of their homes.

Economic Implications

As Pittsburgh continues to attract investment and undergo redevelopment, certain neighborhoods are experiencing sharp rises in property values. While this can be a sign of economic health, it also poses a risk to longtime residents who may suddenly find their property taxes unaffordable. By allowing for tax deferrals or exemptions, LOOP seeks to ensure these residents can stay in their homes despite changing economic conditions.

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Senator Jay Costa noted that the legislation aims to address the pressures of rapid development. “As the costs of living rise, along with property taxes, it’s up to us to ensure that seniors and long-term members of our communities can afford to stay in the homes and neighborhoods they love,” he said.

Legislative Amendments

The proposed changes to the existing law involve several key amendments:

  • Renaming the statute to the “First and Second Class County and City Property Tax Relief Act.”
  • Including language that extends the benefits to cities of the first and second class.
  • Discussing potential amendments to specific sections to ensure comprehensive coverage for affected homeowners.

These adjustments aim to offer similar protections already available to counties, now extended to cities like Pittsburgh, which faces unique challenges due to its rapid growth.

Preserving Pittsburgh’s Heart and Home

The passage of SB 219 has significant implications for Pittsburgh and its residents. For homeowners who have lived in their neighborhoods through various economic cycles, the bill offers a sense of security. They can continue to reside in their homes without the fear of being pushed out by rising property taxes driven by new developments.

Moreover, the legislation supports a balanced approach to urban development. By protecting longtime residents, the city can foster diverse, stable communities even as it attracts new investments. This dual focus on growth and stability is crucial for sustainable urban planning.

Next Steps

With the Senate’s approval, the bill now moves to the state House for consideration. If it passes there and receives the governor’s signature, Pittsburgh’s local government will have a powerful tool to manage the impacts of rapid economic development on longtime residents.

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SB 219 represents a proactive step toward equitable urban development in Pittsburgh. By safeguarding homeowners from the financial strains of rising property taxes, the bill helps maintain the fabric of the city’s neighborhoods even as they evolve. As the legislation advances, it offers hope for a more inclusive future where economic growth benefits all residents, not just the newcomers.

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