NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Fannie, Freddie loan limits announced for 2021; NAR urges access to safe, affordable financing

Bucks County
Weeks left for Bucks COVID-19 Mortgage Assistance Program

Chester County
Chester County Recorder’s office temporarily closed, but services continue

Delaware County
Recorder of Deeds system disrupted by hack

Montgomery County
SEPTA maintains commitment to King of Prussia Rail project

Philadelphia County
Philly is set to create a new construction tax and cut a big property tax break

 

News Briefs Archive November 16, 2020

 

General News

Realtors® applaud FHA effort to expand private flood insurance options
The National Association of Realtors® applauded steps taken by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to make more private flood insurance options available to U.S. consumers. The FHA proposal would allow private insurance to be used provided it meets the agency's definition, harmonizing with recent federal laws and pro-consumer industry practices. Current FHA regulations, established in 1999, prevent homebuyers with FHA-insured mortgages from obtaining flood insurance from any source other than the National Flood Insurance Program. Read more here.
Source: Nar.realtor; 11/11/2020

NAR offers Private Flood Insurance Toolkit
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) supports a more robust private flood insurance market in addition to the National Flood Insurance Program. Unfortunately, most states don’t have regulations specific to private flood insurance but rather tend to default to stricter state regulations governing general home or other insurance lines. NAR has published a Private Flood Insurance Toolkit, which is a resource for associations to use as they investigate and seek to remove state regulatory barriers and attract private flood insurers to their state’s property insurance markets. Download it here (PDF) .
Source: Nar.realtor; 11/11/2020

Analysis: Pa. schools need $4.6 billion more to close education gaps
A new analysis commissioned by advocates seeking to overhaul Pennsylvania’s education funding system found that Pennsylvania’s public schools need an additional $4.6 billion to close education gaps. The analysis, based on state data over the past decade, shows widening gaps in education spending between affluent and poor communities — and a resulting divide in academic performance. The analysis was prepared for a Commonwealth Court judge as part of a long legal battle to address school funding inequities in the state. The lawsuit, filed in 2014 and revived by the state Supreme Court in 2017, contends Pennsylvania is failing to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of education as guaranteed by the state constitution. It also alleges students' equal protection rights are being violated. The lead plaintiff in the suit is William Penn School District in Delaware County, though many other districts have also joined. Click here for the full article.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/27/2020

Bucks County

Taxes steady in Hilltown
The proposed 2021 budget for Hilltown Township maintains the current municipal property tax rate of 8.75 mills. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A property assessed at $45,000 will see a township property tax bill of about $394 if the proposed budget is adopted without change. The proposed budget totals $9.39 million. A little over $7 million is the general fund budget, which pays for things like the police department, administrative salaries and public works. If passed, the budget would mark the 10th year in a row with no tax increase for Hilltown property owners.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/5/2020

Hulmeville budget proposal maintains property tax rate
The proposed 2021 budget for Hulmeville Borough is available for public inspection by appointment through Monday, Nov. 23, at Hulmeville Borough Hall, 321 Main St. The proposed budget will be considered for adoption at a public meeting via Zoom, on Monday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. Meeting details will be posted on the Borough Hall door. The proposed 2021 budget will set a tax rate for general purposes at 14.50 mills and an additional 1.5 mills for the fire tax. The total of 16 mills is the same rate as 2020. The earned income tax rate is 1%. The per capita tax will be $5, and the refuse collection fee is $281.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 11/5/2020

Bucks County Commissioners remind public to mask up
Bucks County Commissioners are asking the public to stay diligent in the face of a second wave of the coronavirus. The commissioners reported a 79% increase in new COVID-19 infections last week, up to a daily average of 177 new cases. The commissioners said the spread is not occurring in schools, businesses or restaurants, but rather due to lax personal behavior as residents grow weary of mask-wearing and restrictions on social events and gatherings. The spikes are not unique to the county; cases continue to climb to record levels statewide. Click here for the Bucks County COVID-19 dashboard.
Source: Bucks County press release; 11/10/2020

County program aims to reduce lead hazards
Bucks County’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program is designed to protect children under the age of 6 from exposure to lead-based paint. Through the program, qualifying families can receive a full lead risk assessment of their homes, as well as an abatement plan and abatement services. Improvements to homes often include items like new windows, doors, siding and trim, interior and exterior painting, porch repair, and other home safety measures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe blood lead level in children. Even low levels can result in permanent brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral problems and other serious health issues. For more information, visit the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program or email hcd@buckscounty.org.
Source: Bucks County; 10/29/2020

Chester County 

Kennett considering local services tax
Kennett Township supervisors are considering a local services tax (LST) to offset proposed budget expenses in 2021. Township finance director Amy Heinrich said there is nothing in place for nonresidents who work in the township to “help support the services they require during the day.” The local services tax would be a maximum of $52 a year for everyone who works in the township and makes more than $12,000 a year. It could raise about $250,000 a year if enacted, Heinrich said, and revenue would be allocated to expenditures for police, fire, emergency medical services and township infrastructure. The township receives earned income tax (EIT) revenue from residents and people who live in the township but work elsewhere. EIT revenue from nonresidents who work in Kennett Township is sent to their home municipalities if those municipalities also have EITs. Enacting an LST could be an alternative to raising taxes elsewhere. The proposed LST ordinance is scheduled for a formal vote on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. via zoom. Additional information can be found on the township website or by calling 610-388-1300.
Source: Daily Local;10/30/2020

County planning commission to hold A+ Homes Forum
The Chester County Planning Commission has announced an A+ Homes Forum that will take place in two sessions and feature a series of topics and presenters. The first session on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 3 to 5 p.m. will cover housing for an aging population. The second session on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 3 to 5 p.m. will focus on construction costs. Both will take place via Zoom and are open to anyone interested in learning more about the county’s community planning initiatives. Registration is required for the Zoom link. Learn more and register.
Source: Chester County Planning Commission; October 2020

Westtown Township to consider sign ordinance
The Westtown Township Board of Supervisors is considering a minor amendment to sign regulations under the existing zoning ordinance. The draft ordinance would amend the ordinance to say: “Except for those classified as exempt … no sign may be located within any public right-of-way and/or occupy a clear sight triangle of 75 feet (as measured from the center-line intersections of two streets) which shall be provided at all intersections. The minimum clear sight triangle shall be increased to 100 feet if either street is a collector street and to 150 feet if either street is an arterial highway.” Real estate/for sale signs are not permitted in the public right-of-way. The proposed ordinance will be considered at a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the township building, 1039 Wilmington Pike, West Chester.
Source: Daily Local; 11/9/2020

East Caln 2021 draft budget available for review
The proposed 2021 budget for East Caln Township is available for public inspection by appointment due to COVID-19 restrictions. Call the township at 610-269-1989 to set up an appointment. The final budget will be considered for adoption at the public meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.
Source: Daily Local; 11/9/2020

Delaware County

Chester closes City Hall after COVID-19 outbreak
A spike in COVID-19 cases among Chester City employees has spurred officials to close City Hall for the week. Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said six to eight positive cases have been found among the 40 to 50 staff members working in the building. The building was also the site of a drop-off voting box in the lobby, which brought in numerous members of the public, and was a precinct polling location that drew more than 164 voters to the Community Room. The city is requiring any personnel who have been inside the building to get tested, and officials will re-evaluate after a week to determine if the building needs to remain closed for a longer period of time. During the closures, services from the city streets and parks department will not be interrupted. Kirkland promised he would update the public as more information comes in.
Source: Daily Times; 11/10/2020

Prospect Park adopts EIT
Prospect Park Borough adopted an ordinance establishing an earned income tax. The 1% tax will apply to all earned income and to net profits earned by borough residents and nonresidents who work in the borough starting in tax year 2021. The tax will provide revenue for capital and operational funding for services, such as police and fire safety, emergency services vehicles, equipment, sewer construction and maintenance, repaving of streets, personnel, and materials. The tax is expected to generate revenue in the amount of $750,000.
Source: Daily Times; 11/9/2020

Media to consider chicken ordinance
Media Borough Council will consider an ordinance prohibiting the keeping of chickens or fowl in the borough for a period extending from the enactment of the ordinance until March 31, 2021. The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Borough of Media Building, 301 N. Jackson St.
Source: Daily Times; 11/9/2020

Lansdowne Borough to adopt budget
The Lansdowne Borough 2021 proposed budget is available for inspection at Borough Hall, 12 E. Baltimore Ave., during normal business hours. If Borough Hall is closed due to COVID-19, residents can call the borough offices at 610-623-7300 to make arrangements for the mailing or emailing of a copy of the ordinance. Adoption of the 2021 budget is planned for the borough council business meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m., which will be conducted via Zoom.
Source: Daily Times; 11/9/2020

Montgomery County

Lower Frederick voters OK open space tax
Lower Frederick Township voters approved a tax referendum to raise money for open space preservation. The tax of 0.05% on paychecks will be used "for purposes of securing open space benefits and for transactional fees incidental to acquisitions of open space property; retire indebtedness incurred in acquiring open space; and the expenditure of funds for any purpose relating to the acquisition, planning for acquisition, preservation, improvement and maintenance of open space or for an open space benefit." It is estimated the tax will generate between $75,000 and $80,000 per year. The tax works out to 50 cents for every $1,000 earned, so a person earning $50,000 would pay $25.
Source: Times Herald; 11/6/2020

Pottstown eyes 3.5% tax hike
Pottstown Borough’s proposed $49.3 million budget for 2021 calls for a tax increase of 3.5%. After reducing the deficit, borough management has proposed that the remaining gap of nearly $405,000 between revenues and expenditures be filled by a combination of pulling about $143,000 from reserves and raising taxes to generate the other roughly $262,000. The borough council recently unanimously approved the advertisement of the proposed budget and a second ordinance “to fix the borough tax rate for real property for the year 2021 with a total millage not to exceed 13.622.” The final budget will likely not be presented for approval until December, and officials say they will continue to work toward decreasing it and the potential tax increase.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 11/6/2020 & wfmz.com; 11/9/2020

Norristown to adopt 2021 budget
Norristown Municipal Council plans to adopt the 2021 budget on Tuesday, Nov. 17, in a meeting at Norristown Municipal Hall, 235 E. Airy St., at 6:30 p.m. The proposed budget includes a shortfall, and administrators have recommended a three-pronged approach to close the gap: use $826,000 in fund balance; cut expenses by $854,000; and increase taxes by 1 mill to 16 mills. The tax increase is expected to equal a $60 increase in the tax bill for the average residential family dwelling. Click here for the 2021 budget page on the Norristown Municipal website.
Source: Times Herald; 11/9/2020

Lower Merion revises solid waste fee structure
Lower Merion Township commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance in October that restructures fees for solid waste services beginning in 2021. The revised structure includes three tiers of service, with escalating fees as trash volume increases. It also changes the optional added rear yard collection fee, so that it is based on the amount of trash collected. The township will send out a letter explaining the new levels and fees. Click here for more information.
Source: Lower Merion Township; 11/4/2020

Montco seeing ‘substantial’ level of coronavirus transmission
Montgomery County’s coronavirus positivity rate increased last week to a level that indicates the virus is spreading in local communities, leading state health officials to list the county as having “substantial transmission and concerning percent-positivity.” For the period Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, Montgomery County recorded a COVID-19 percent-positivity rate of 5.2%, which is an increase from the 4.6% positivity rate recorded during the previous seven-day period, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard. Health officials believe a positivity rate of less than 5% indicates the spread of the virus is being controlled. According to state data, each of Montgomery County’s six neighboring counties also recorded positivity rates above the 5% threshold. Click here for the Montgomery County COVID-19 dashboard.
Source: Times Herald; 11/10/2020

Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s affordable housing strategy depends on repairing existing homes
Philadelphia’s housing stock is old and can be expensive to maintain — a considerable challenge in a city with a 23% poverty rate, incomes that aren’t keeping pace with rising home prices, and now a pandemic-induced recession. City officials and housing advocates repeat a common sentiment: The most affordable house for residents is usually the one in which they already live because they don’t have to take on new debt or spend money relocating. So, repairing existing homes is a key part of Philadelphia’s affordable housing strategy. The city’s agreements with unhoused Philadelphians who protested the lack of affordable housing at encampments on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and in North Philadelphia include the transfer of now-vacant homes. The city relies on nonprofits and community development corporations to help homeowners with repairs, but the need for housing repair is great, said David Thomas, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. (PHDC), a community development organization that administers several home repair programs and partners with the city to meet housing goals. In October, PHDC asked for more contractors to participate in its basic repair and adaptive home modification programs. Its low-interest loan program saw a spike in applicants over the summer, and the nonprofit is reviewing proposals from additional banks that want to participate. Housing advocates anticipate fewer city, state and federal funds and tighter budgets because of the coronavirus pandemic, and are hoping to blend public and private support to keep housing initiatives going. City council is considering a 1% tax on construction to fund affordable housing programs that would help close funding gaps for initiatives like home maintenance grant programs. Residents can find more information about home repair programs on the PHDC website. Read the full article here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/7/2020

Philadelphia continues its ‘fragile’ economic recovery
According to a report issued by the Center City Business District, Philadelphia continues to generate “encouraging” indicators that the economy is slowly regaining strength. The number of people filing for unemployment has dropped, construction permits have surged, and foot traffic along Center City’s commercial corridors is up. “The momentum is positive,” said Paul Levy, president and CEO of the Center City District. Home sales in Philadelphia were nearly as strong in September as they were in May 2019. Median home sale prices were greater than at any time last year, at $242,000 — more than 19% higher than the median of $200,000 that houses were fetching in September 2019. “I can’t fully explain this,” Levy said. "There was all this worry about people fleeing cities in general. That doesn’t seem to be the case. We talk a lot about how digital hurt retail, but it seems to have really invigorated the real estate market. But in all the good news about sales, we did notice that there was an increase in people asking for forbearance for their mortgages.” Click here for more.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/8/2020

 
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