Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Opportunity zones added to Realtors® Property Resource
Morrisville hears $100M redevelopment plan
Affordable homes subject of 2020 Citizen Planners meeting
Clifton Heights sues Upper Darby schools
Lower Pottsgrove schedules sneak peek at new township building plans
Why new houses in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) aren’t made of brick
NAR responds to potential change of HUD mission statement
Following reports that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to remove anti-discrimination language from its current mission statement, NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall issued this response: “As Realtors® join with our industry partners, allies and consumers throughout 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, we believe that fair housing for all should remain a core part of HUD’s mission. The Fair Housing Act provides that HUD will enforce the Act and administer its programs and activities in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law, he exclaimed that fair housing for all — all human beings who live in this country — is now a part of the American way of life. Not only is Fair Housing integral to the ethical commitment of our members, as outlined in the Realtor® Code of Ethics, it is critical to our ability to serve our customers, clients and the community. We look forward to continuing our work with HUD to advocate for inclusive sustainable communities free from discrimination.”
Source: National Association of Realtors®; 3/8/2018
IRS: HELOCs Still Deductible for Renovations
Taxpayers can continue to deduct the interest they pay on home equity loans when the funds are used for home improvements, the IRS confirmed in a statement. The status of home equity deductions has been in question following the limits on the mortgage interest deduction included in recent tax reform legislation. The IRS says it has been fielding more questions from taxpayers and tax professionals on whether the interest on home equity loans, home equity lines of credit, or second mortgages can still be deducted. In its statement, the IRS said despite the restrictions on mortgages, taxpayers can, in most cases, still deduct interest on home equity loans, a home equity line of credit, or a second mortgage. The tax law, passed in December, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit unless the funds are used to buy, build, or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home, the IRS notes. As such, the interest on a home equity loan used for building an addition to an existing home would generally be deductible, Accounting Today explains. But interest on the same loan used to pay personal living expenses, like credit card debt, would not be. Read the IRS statement here.
Source: Realtor Magazine; 2/22/2018
Preliminary approval granted for 15-home development in Hilltown
Hilltown Township supervisors unanimously granted preliminary approval for a proposal to construct a 15-home development on Orchard Road. The Arbors at Hilltown will be built by Warrington-based Hallmark Homes and will include more than 15 acres of open space on the nearly 23-acre lot. Richard Carroll, a principal with Hallmark, said more than 700 seedlings will be planted as part of a reforestation initiative. The development will be served by public water and sewer. Hallmark Homes will need final approval on the project from supervisors and are optimistic that the project could start as soon as late May.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/1/2018
New Hope council questions canal townhouse plan
New Hope Borough Council recently viewed sketch plans for a new development along the canal towpath on Mechanic Street. Developer Ralph Fey of Doylestown-based Ralph Curtis Fey Architects presented the plans for the phased project along with builder Rich Calabrese. The first phase of the project consists of three 40-foot-long and nearly 40-foot-tall rowhome-style houses along the towpath. Council member Dan Dougherty said, “We have a lot of concerns from soup to nuts on this thing.” Dougherty expressed concern that the mass of the project would “obliterate” the natural look of the towpath area. Part of the project would include repair and reconstruction of an existing structure bearing the 18-20 Mechanic St. address, but Dougherty questioned whether the structure would survive the initial phase of the construction project. After further discussion regarding the building material and setbacks, the board unanimously tabled the discussion.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/1/2018
Quakertown School District plans furloughs to bridge budget gap
Quakertown Community School District Chief Operating Officer Zach Schoch reported that formal furlough letters will be mailed to eight district teachers this month. The furloughs are to help the district bridge a $3 million budget gap. Under union policy, the teachers with the least experience will be furloughed first. Finance Committee member Austin Sedicum said the furloughs will save an anticipated $300,000 in employee benefits and the impending retirements of four teachers will save the district an additional $250,000 annually.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/1/2018
Reminder: Sewer easement inspections and certification required at resale for Levittown homes
As a reminder to Realtors® and property owners in Levittown, the Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority (LBCJMA) requires a certification and an inspection of the sewer easement on a property prior to the resale of a home. The LBCJMA requires a minimum of 30 days’ notification for an easement inspection. A house does not have to be under agreement or sold to request an easement inspection. The LBCJMA encourages Realtors® to request an easement inspection as soon as a listing is obtained to allow the seller more time to correct any issues found. In addition to the easement inspection, a certification fee of $100 was put into effect in April 2014. Click here for a complete explanation of the LBCJMA resale requirements, including application, easement responsibility explanation and where to buy a plot plan. The LBCJMA covers all of Levittown, Tullytown Borough and some surrounding neighborhoods in Bristol, Falls and Middletown townships.
West Nottingham to update on-lot sewer ordinances
West Nottingham Township will hold a public hearing to consider passage of two ordinances related to the township’s Act 537 sewage facilities plan. The first draft ordinance, regulating on-lot sewage disposal systems, would provide for the regulation, inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation of the systems. It would apply to anyone who owns property serviced by an on-lot sewage disposal system, and anyone installing or rehabilitating on-lot sewage disposal systems in any portion of the township identified as a sewage management district. The ordinance would enable the township to file liens against the homes of owners who refuse to pay for the cost of remediating a malfunctioning system, and to impose penalties, including fines of up to $1,000 plus costs for each violation. The other ordinance establishes procedures for the use, maintenance and removal of existing and new holding tanks designed to receive and retain sewage for residential or commercial uses. The ordinance provides that the township is empowered to fix, alter, charge and collect rates, assessments and other charges in the area served by facilities at reasonable and uniform rates. It provides that collection and transportation of all sewage from any improved property utilizing a holding tank shall be done solely under the direction and control of the township, and allows the township to impose fines up to $1,000 plus costs for each violation. Read more about the regulations proposed in the ordinances here.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/6/2018
Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on three homes in Coatesville
Habitat for Humanity of Chester County held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of three new homes in Coatesville. The homes are located in Cambria Terrace, a community in which Habitat will eventually construct more than 60 homes for people who might not otherwise be able to become homeowners. The start of construction of the three latest homes is made possible in part due to a $160,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, as part of its Priority Markets Program, which seeks to “remove barriers to sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income communities.”
Source: Daily Local News; 3/5/2018
East Brandywine to hold hearing on Horseshoe Pike development
East Brandywine Township will hold a public hearing to consider the conditional use application of Rouse/Chamberlin LTD to develop the property at 1163 Horseshoe Pike with a 15-lot multifamily dwelling development. The meeting will be held Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m. at the township building, located at 1214 Horseshoe Pike, Downingtown.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/1/2018
Upper Uwchlan, East Caln recognized for newsletters
Two Chester County townships received awards for their efforts to keep residents informed. Upper Uwchlan Township received two awards in the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors’ 50th annual Township Citizen Communication Contest. It received first place in the Class 1 Newsletters category for townships with populations over 10,000 and second place in the Most Improved Newsletter category. East Caln Township received second place in the Class 3 Newsletters category for townships with 2,001 to 5,000 residents. Forty-two townships submitted 99 entries for this year’s competition, and 20 won awards. The entries were judged on the usefulness of information, as well as overall attractiveness and readability of the communication materials.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/3/2018
Ridley to create own municipal authority
The Ridley Township Board of Commissioners on Feb. 28 voted to adopt Ordinance 2037 to form a municipal authority as permitted under state law. The authority will serve the purposes of financing, improving, maintaining, operating, owning and leasing, either in the capacity of lessor or lessee, flood control projects, stormwater projects, stormwater planning, management and implementation, waterworks, water supply works and water distribution systems in the township and the surrounding region. The new entity will be called the Waterfront Municipal Authority, and the articles of incorporation will be filed with the state on Thursday, March 15. The authority will have five board members with term lengths ranging from one to five years.
Source: Daily Times; 3/4/2018
Developers discuss plans for Runnymeade Farms apartments
A crowd of about 100 people attended an Edgmont Planning Commission meeting that included an update on Phase 7 of Runnymeade Farms by GMH Capital Partners. The project will include 249 apartment units in four separate structures. Lou Colagreco, an attorney representing the developer, said the fire marshal, sewage enforcement officer, township planning consultant and traffic engineer had sent “clean” letters indicating no major issues with the project. During the public comment session, attorney Hugh Donaghue spoke on behalf of Runnymeade Citizens United, a group representing homeowners of the separate communities in Runnymeade Farms that include between 500 and 600 residents. Other residents at the meeting claimed widespread objection to the apartments, saying single-family homes would be a better option. One resident, Nicholas Aponte, predicted hundreds of people would attend the next meeting.
Source: Daily Times; 2/28/2018
Aston bond issue would fund new fire station, community center and playground
Aston Township commissioners voted in February to float a bond issue in the amount of about $12.3 million to fund an array of capital projects. About $7 million would go toward the construction of a new fire station. Other planned projects include renovations to the township community center, a special needs playground, streetscaping on Concord and Pennell roads, a new municipal building and police station, security cameras, new software for code enforcement, a new public works facility, a new sanitation truck, a roundabout at Concord and Donnelly roads, improvements to Newsome’s Pond, and a new sound system for the commissioner’s meeting room. Commissioners President Jim Stigale said, “These things are part of the township’s vision plan, and we feel as though it is important to follow through with these projects and reinvest in our community.” The township will seek to supplement the bond issue with grant funding.
Source: Town Talk; 2/7/2018
Rebranded nonprofit looks to partner with governments, businesses
The Crozer-Keystone Community Foundation has a new name — The Foundation for Delaware County. The foundation began in 2016 with funds from the sale of the Crozer-Keystone Health System, which are required by law to be reinvested into another charitable entity. The group has $57 million in assets, which they hope to grow to $100 million, and officials plan to give $1 million in grants this calendar year, said Frances Sheehan, the president of the nonprofit. At an event unveiling the new name and logo, the group announced $330,000 in grants to groups like Senior Community Services in Folsom, Surrey Senior Services in Devon, Mercy Life in Darby, Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice in Radnor, Widener Community Nursing Clinic in Chester, Boys & Girls Club of Chester and the Taylor Community Foundation in Ridley. The foundation hopes to partner with governments, other charities and businesses. “It is an opportunity to give in Delaware County,” Sheehan said. “Money will stay local to help people in this area.” For more information on the foundation, visit www.delcofoundation.org.
Source: Daily Times; 3/4/2018
New Hanover supervisors display tougher stance on development
New Hanover Township supervisors delayed approval of a 29-home project on 14.1 acres on Dotterer Road for at least a month. Called Trotter’s Gait, the new plan is preferred by the supervisors over the original plan approved years ago that called for 54 townhomes. Nevertheless, the 29-home plan failed to obtain preliminary approval from the supervisors because there were too many unanswered questions in the preliminary site plan. The new majority on the board of supervisors has been critical of loose ends and incomplete work being left by developers and has vowed to take a tough line on new projects. The developers agreed to a 30-day extension on the plan while they attempt to determine if there is enough space on the property for larger detention basins due to wide roads.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 3/6/2018
Hatfield Borough to consider soliciting and peddling ordinance changes
Hatfield Borough Council will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Hatfield Volunteer Fire Company, 75 N. Market St., to consider an ordinance regulating soliciting in the borough. The purpose of the ordinance is to make the borough’s solicitation ordinance consistent with Hatfield Township’s solicitation ordinance to provide for easier enforcement by the Hatfield Township Police, who serve the borough as well as the township. The ordinance amendment provides that: application shall be made to the Hatfield Township Police department for a license; a criminal history request form be completed; licenses shall be for 30 days and may be renewed; and the hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It also establishes an enactment date, a severability clause and a repealer clause.
Source: The Reporter; 3/2/2018
East Norriton makes changes to U&O procedure
East Norriton Township has made some changes to the resale use-and-occupancy procedure and fee. The township will now charge $200 instead of $250 for the resale use-and-occupancy inspection but will no longer perform the sewer lateral inspection as part of the township’s inspection. The sewer lateral inspection is still required in properties with a sewer lateral, but the inspection will have to be performed by a third-party vendor. Contact East Norriton Township with questions regarding the new procedure. The township website can be found here.
$25 million gifted to Abington High School
Blackstone CEO and Abington High School alum Stephen Schwarzman recently promised a $25 million gift to his alma mater. In a prepared statement, Schwarzman said he hopes the gift — which will be used for a new science and technology center, as well as a complete renovation of the high school — will encourage other wealthy donors to support public education. Schwarzman graduated from Abington in 1965. In addition to science and technology center and renovations, Abington will use the money for a revamp of its curriculum to ensure students are getting the skills they need for the evolving workforce, including required computer science and coding courses beginning in seventh grade. Such large gifts are uncommon to public schools, but in recent years donors, such as comedian Stephen Colbert, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, author Stephen King, and philanthropists such as Bill Gates and the Walton family, have helped cash-strapped schools in need of resources.
Source: Philly.com; 2/15/2018
Mayor Kenney introduces budget plan
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney introduced a budget proposal which would use a tax increase to generate new funding for the Philadelphia School District. The mayor’s plan calls for increases in property taxes and the real estate transfer tax as well as slowing the scheduled reduction of the city wage tax. The city will be taking back control of the Philadelphia public school system which has a projected budget deficit of $105 million for the 2018-19 school year. The proposed property tax increase is 6 percent, which would mean an additional $95 in taxes for the typical homeowner, officials said. The city imposes a 4.1 percent real estate transfer tax on the sale price of a property; 3.1 percent is taxed by the city and 1 percent by the state. Kenney will propose an additional increase of 0.35 percent that officials say would generate an additional $66 million over five years. The city also imposes a 3.8907 percent wage tax for residents and 3.4654 percent for nonresidents that work in the city. The wage tax is scheduled for annual reductions but Kenney’s plan would slow the annual cuts for residents to 3.84 percent in the next five years, instead of to 3.7 percent in the existing schedule. That adjustment would generate an additional $340 million over five years, according to budget estimates. City Council will hold hearings on the budget, make suggestions and debate changes before a final budget is passed. Council President Darrell L. Clarke has stated that he would like to revisit the 10-year tax abatement program. The program allows property owners to avoid taxes on new construction or improvements for 10 years. Opponents say the abatement amounts to a tax break for the wealthy, while proponents say it boosts development.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/1/2018
$50M affordable housing bill introduced
With attention focused on Mayor Jim Kenney’s budget proposal, some city council members were concerned with what the budget does not fund. “We have HUD cutting its budget in half, and this budget does very little to address that gap,” said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez. Acting as an unlikely ally, Councilman David Oh introduced legislation that would allow voters to decide whether the city should massively ramp up its commitment to affordable housing. If passed by council and approved by voters, it would make a $50 million annual contribution to Philadelphia’s Housing Trust Fund mandatory. A funding source was not specified in the legislation. The Trust Fund was created in 2005 and serves as a kind of municipal bank for affordable housing projects. It is currently funded from fees that are collected when a mortgage or deed is recorded in Philadelphia and brings in about $13 to $14 million annually. “The problem is we are not stimulating investment and development of new truly affordable housing in neighborhoods that need them,” said Councilman Oh.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 3/6/2018