When Charles Burke, a junior architecture major at Penn University, first heard about the Actual Value Initiative – the reassessment of every property in the city of Philadelphia done with the intention of rooting the base amount property taxes are paid on directly to the market value of a property – he said he thought it wouldn’t change students’ housing habits much.
“Honestly, I don’t think Penn students will change their habits; they might complain more,” he said.
After the city sent out new tax assessments, however, Burke said that he believes increased rents will result in students moving farther off campus. What he initially described as “a prevailing conception that the ‘freedom’ of college only really comes when you move off campus,” he said will turn into a real desire to save a few hundred dollars a year.
Burke will not have to worry about the reassessments raising his taxes. After living on campus as a freshman – as all Penn University students must – and on the 3800 block of Chestnut Street as a sophomore, he signed a two-year lease on a one-bedroom studio apartment on the 4000 block of Pine Street. According to his lease, his rent will remain the same next year.
The owners of the property, however, are projected to see approximately a $1,000 increase in their annual property taxes, using the 1.25 percent tax rate currently proposed by City Council. This would have raised Burke’s rent from $785 to about $868 a month. While he said that he would probably still chose to live there, he did admit that the jump would cause some second thoughts.
“I guess I would still be willing to pay that but I wouldn’t be happy about it,” he said. “That said, I wouldn’t like having to pay that much at all and I would definitely look for a cheaper place to live, probably Center City or further west.”
While Burke said he thinks this is a possibility many more students will consider in upcoming years, he also said he expects students to be taken by surprise by fluctuations in prices.
“I’ve heard no one talking about property taxes.”