Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Fannie, Freddie loan limits announced for 2021; NAR urges access to safe, affordable financing
Weeks left for Bucks COVID-19 Mortgage Assistance Program
Chester County Recorder’s office temporarily closed, but services continue
Recorder of Deeds system disrupted by hack
SEPTA maintains commitment to King of Prussia Rail project
Philly is set to create a new construction tax and cut a big property tax break
Struggling rental market could usher in next American housing crisis
A housing crisis centered on the vast apartment and home-rental markets is emerging in the U.S., threatening to send millions of renters into eviction and leave landlords short billions of dollars. A large number of renters have been unable to pay some or all of their rent since March, when the pandemic temporarily shut down most businesses. Many businesses remain closed or only partially open, pushing renters into unemployment and draining their savings. Read more here.
Source: Wall Street Journal; 10/27/2020
Wear a mask
Pennsylvania Association of Realtors’ (PAR) director of law and policy, Hank Lerner Esq., reminds Realtors® to wear their masks, for several reasons. First, a state health department order requires individuals to wear appropriate face coverings if they are “in any indoor location where members of the public are generally permitted” or “engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when interacting in-person with any member of the public.” The order clearly refers to showings, Lerner said. Masks are also a sign of professionalism and respect for sellers whose homes are being shown. Realtors® who violate the mask order risk an investigation by the state Real Estate Commission or Department of Health, possibly resulting in fines or even affecting their licenses. Read Lerner’s full column at the JustListed blog.
Source: PAR JustListed; 10/29/2020
Realtor® election resources
Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. The Suburban Realtors® Alliance Elections Page has important deadlines and information on voting via mail, and provides answers to frequently asked questions. It also links to other resources, including the Pennsylvania Realtors® Political Action Committee (RPAC) voter guide, which has information on RPAC-supported candidates.
Killion’s bill on affordable housing heads to governor
Senate Bill 30, authored by state Sen. Tom Killion (R-9), of Delaware County, promotes new construction and the rehabilitation of blighted buildings for affordable housing. The bill is headed to the governor’s desk after being approved by the General Assembly. “Affordable housing is in short supply in Pennsylvania,” Killion said. “Seniors, individuals with disabilities, working families and children are disproportionately affected by this scarcity. My legislation will address this critical need and promote job growth and stronger communities.” Killion’s legislation establishes a state low-income housing tax credit program (LIHTC). The state program will mirror and be used in conjunction with the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. LIHTC is the main vehicle for the creation and preservation of affordable rental housing. According to the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, the commonwealth is faced with a shortage of housing that is available and affordable, especially for households making 30% of median family income. “Every dollar invested in housing results in nearly $20 in economic impact,” Killion said. “With the success of the federal affordable housing tax credit, it is wise for Pennsylvania to also promote these private investments.”
Source: Daily Local; 10/23/2020
New Britain Township to consider zoning amendment
New Britain Township supervisors will consider an amendment to the zoning code at a public hearing during the regular board meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 207 Park Avenue. Items of note include the establishment of a new short-term rental use, and changes to sign regulations. Click here (PDF) for the zoning amendment.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/26/2020
County to build community center, more housing for homeless
Bucks County will build a new modular community education center at Humphrey’s Park in Bristol Township to help children who need internet access for remote learning while schools are closed during the pandemic. Bernard Griggs, the county’s new diversity officer, said the community center, to be called the Humphrey’s Park Education Center, will be located on 3.8 acres of county-owned parkland at 5619 Mitchell Road. The county will also build two 15-foot by 50-foot modular units at the back of the Bucks County Homeless Shelter to house homeless families or individuals who may have the coronavirus or who need to quarantine because they have been exposed to someone who has the virus. According to Julie Dees, acting CEO of Family Services Association of Bucks County, which runs the shelter, there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 but officials want to be prepared. The funds for both projects, deemed necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic, are being taken from the $109 million in CARES Act funds the county received from the federal government.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/23/2020
Grant will help complete Route 202 trail
Solebury Township is getting a $400,000 grant to continue its biking and walking trail along Route 202 from Kitchens Lane to Sugan Road. The project includes the creation of the trail, accessibility for people with disabilities, storm water management systems and traffic signal improvements. The township holds a lease with PECO for the trail section. After more than a decade in the planning and engineering stage, the grant award will allow the township to move forward on the project as soon as next year. The grant comes from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The township has also applied for two additional grants that, if approved, would bring the total grant money for the trail to $1.2 million, according to Township Manager Dennis Carney.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/22/2020
Bucks County Herald posts League of Women Voters guide
Since 2002, the Bucks County Herald has published the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Bucks County’s Voters Guide. The Herald publishes the guide in support of the League’s mission of encouraging informed and engaged participation in the democratic process and public policy. Click here for more information.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/15/2020
East Nottingham to consider reducing EIT
East Nottingham Township will consider a reduction of the earned income and net profits tax (EIT) rate. The amendment will reduce the EIT tax for open space from one-quarter of one percent (.0025) to one-tenth of one percent (0.001). A public hearing will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. at the East Nottingham Township Building, 158 Election Road, Oxford.
Source: Daily Local; 10/16/2020
West Chester faces tax hike
West Chester Borough Council approved a preliminary 2021 budget that would raise property taxes and sewer rates. The preliminary $41 million budget calls for a 6% to 7% increase in property taxes and a 15.8% increase in sewer rates. Early on in the process, the council projected a 32% jump in property taxes. Borough Manager Mike Perrone favored raising both the tax and the fee. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with COVID,” Perrone said. “From week to week things change. It might be worse next year.” Budget cuts made since Sept. 16 include eliminating the purchase of two police cars at $120,000 and cutting four part-time dispatchers for a $35,000 decrease. A 3.5% increase of health insurance costs will run $87,400. Maintenance was deferred, and some capital projects were cut. Council can amend, add to or take from the current budget prior to voting on a final 2021 budget, which must be done by Jan. 1, 2021.
Source: Daily Local; 10/23/2020
West Chester council passes mask ordinance
West Chester Borough Council passed an ordinance to require masks in most public instances and limit gatherings at residences to 15 people. Councilors were sharply divided, and the ordinance passed with a 4-3 vote. The action comes in wake of Mayor Dianne Herrin’s Oct. 2 state of emergency declaration to require masks when within six feet of others, except in some commercial places, and limit gatherings in private places to 10 people. The mayor later amended the declaration to allow up to 25 people to meet with a permit. The ordinance passed Wednesday would stay in effect for 60 days unless council votes to alter it. The ordinance would not impact diners seated at borough restaurants. Violations could result in up to a $300 fine. Police have so far served several warnings, with three violations. Kevin Gore, director of the Building and Housing Department, said he received four reports of large gatherings since the mayor’s declaration. At one event, 56 people were present. Police Chief Jim Morehead said there was a big decline in the number of parties and the number of people not wearing masks.
Source: Daily Local; 10/23/2020
53-unit town house complex coming to Kennett Township
Ground will be broken in December for a 53-unit town house complex just outside of Kennett Square that will include a mix of retail and commercial space. Called Kennett Pointe, it will be located at East Cypress Street and Ways Lane, close to the Exelon facility. Developer Don Robitzer said the townhomes will be a mix of 20- and 24-foot-wide units over 13,750 square feet of retail and commercial space. The one- and two-bedroom townhomes will start in the low to mid $300,000 range. The project has been in the planning stage for nearly three years, and the pandemic has slowed the process considerably, Robitzer said. The site will also include a public plaza and pavilion for outdoor events and concerts. There will be on-site parking and a walking trail. Robitzer said he is hoping to attract businesses that will complement the Kennett community, such as a yoga studio, medical offices and perhaps a restaurant. He said space as small as 1,300 square feet will be available for individual businesses. Robitzer predicts the development will have a positive impact on Kennett Township’s tax base. Currently, the township collects about $13,000 from the property, but when finished it will realize hundreds of thousands of dollars in incremental taxes.
Source: Daily Local; 10/22/2020
Crebilly developer, Westtown supervisors discuss sewers
The Oct. 22 session of the conditional use hearing for Toll Bros. planned development of Crebilly Farm in Westtown Township focused on sewers. Township code calls for an on-site sewer treatment facility for a large development in that part of the township, but both Toll and supervisors would prefer using public sewers. While discussing how an on-site drip irrigation system can function on the 320-plus acre site where Toll wants to build 317 new homes, Fred Ebert, an engineer in wastewater and permitting hired by Toll, said Westtown has ample capacity — 530,000 gallons — at the West Goshen Treatment Plant. The development would require 80,750 gallons per day. There would be costs involved to do that, Ebert said, but it would be worth it in the long run. Toll would pay for the needed capacity from the township. Ebert added that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection would prefer large developments tie into public sewer systems where possible. The next hearing, to be held via Zoom, is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. and is expected to deal with storm water management.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 10/23/2020
Springfield schools: Don’t link high school costs with reassessment
As Springfield School District prepares to open its new high school, one unrelated issue is likely to raise concerns — the countywide reassessment. Multiple taxing authorities, including Springfield School District, think there were errors and inconsistencies in the reassessment process and are filing legal appeals. Superintendent Anthony Barber is worried that when school district tax bills go out in July 2021, residents will connect potentially higher taxes from the reassessment to the master plan and new campus, which has a price tag of just over $130 million. “Countywide property reassessment has nothing to do with opening the new building,” Barber said. “This could not be worse timing.” The district has used a strategy of paying off older debt and phasing in the project’s debt service. According to school district executive director Don Mooney, the approach has worked to ease in the cost over many years. In other words, there has not been a dramatic spike in taxes due to the new school and campus development. Increases in property tax rates have resulted from other issues such as contracts, operating expenses and mandated retirement benefits. The district has been within state-set Act 1 indexes. Mooney and board members on key committees said plans are being developed to introduce the school to the community in both virtual and in-person events, depending on health and safety concerns. Students are scheduled to start attending the new facility just after winter break, with the school district following federal and state guidelines in place at that time.
Source: Daily Times; 10/26/2020
Delaware County Intermediate Unit schedules property tax assessment webinar
The Delaware County Intermediate Unit has scheduled a property tax assessment webinar to provide information for residential taxpayers who want to learn more about the Delaware County Property Reassessment. The webinar will be held on Monday, Nov. 9, from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. Click here to register.
Chadds Ford faces lawsuit over stalled shopping center project
Ridge Road Development, a division of Pettinaro Construction, has filed a lawsuit against Chadds Ford Township for what it claims is a “breach of obligation.” The suit claims that Chadds Ford failed to execute necessary documents to allow the company to move forward with plans to build a shopping center, The Shops at Ridge Road, at the intersection of Ridge Road and Route 202. The location is in Concord Township, but it abuts Chadds Ford, and part of the plan has included widening Ridge Road to six lanes. Both townships had to sign off on a highway occupancy permit (HOP) to improve stormwater management. Chadds Ford did so, but construction delays prevented Ridge Road from building the improvements before a May 2019 deadline. PennDOT authorized an extension, but that was revoked six days later when Chadds Ford told PennDOT it did not agree. Chadds Ford Township solicitor Mike Maddren wrote in response to the charges: “The agreement does not contain any language that would bind successor boards to remain as co-permittees indefinitely. To the contrary, PennDOT, which is the source of the agreement, requires periodic renewals of its HOP permits, which in turn provides successor boards the opportunity to reevaluate their municipality’s participation in the HOP process.” This is at least the third suit involving Chadds Ford, Concord and the project.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 10/20/2020
Marple to hold work session on budget
The Marple Township Board of Commissioners will hold a virtual work session and meeting to discuss the 2021 budget. A presentation on the proposed budget will be followed by discussion and public comment. The virtual meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Marple Township Building, 227 S. Sproul Road, Broomall. Register in advance for the webinar via Zoom.
Source: Daily Times; 10/26/2020
Lower Salford eyes no tax increase for 2021
Lower Salford Township supervisors got a preview of the 2021 budget at a recent work session. The proposed 2021 budget will be presented in November, but Township Manager Joe Czajkowski wanted to point out that there will be no tax increase proposed for the coming year. A no-tax-increase budget would keep the township real estate property tax at 2.689 mills, which would amount to a tax bill of about $538 for a home assessed at $200,000. Czajkowski also reviewed the status of the current 2020 budget with the supervisors. Although revenue is ahead of 2019 by $73,000, it is still about 2% below the budgeted amount. Earned income taxes are about $44,000 less than 2019 but are expected to be ahead of budget by the end of the year. Real estate transfer taxes are running $38,500 ahead of last year, with real estate property taxes at $39,800 ahead of last year. Visit the Lower Salford Township website for more information about upcoming budget meetings. In other township news, Michael Beuke has been hired as the new director of building and zoning following the retirement of the previous director.
Source: Souderton Independent; 10/21/2020
New Hanover planners reject final quarry site plan
The New Hanover Township Planning Commission unanimously rejected the final site plan for the first phase of the proposed Gibraltar Rock Quarry off Route 73. The planners’ recommendation now heads to the township supervisors, who can opt to overrule the planners and accept the final plan, or agree with the planners and reject it — the latter being the more likely possibility. The planners’ rejection comes on the heels of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board’s revocation of Gibraltar Rock’s mining permit after ruling that the state had failed to take into account the potential impact quarry operations could have on an adjacent polluted property. The board has until Dec. 4 to make a decision.
Source: Times Herald; 10/19/2020
Montco Cares grant program for families and childcare providers ends Nov. 2
Montgomery County Commissioners announced the creation of Montco Cares, a grant program to financially support eligible families and childcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to $12 million in federal CARES Act funding allocated to Montgomery County is being made available for this program. The application window is open until Monday, Nov. 2. For parents, Montco Cares can cover the cost of services — up to $40 per service day, per child — at a state-licensed facility through Dec. 30. Children must be between the ages of six weeks to 13 years. Payments will be made directly to the facility. Other eligibility requirements apply. For providers, eligible applicants must be a 501(c)(3) or for-profit entity, licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and with a physical location in Montgomery County, that was in operation on or before March 1 and experienced disruptions due to COVID-19. Allowable grant expenses include: rent/mortgage payments, personal protective equipment, unbudgeted payroll expenses for increased service levels and staffing, and payments to utilities, vendors and suppliers. Other eligibility requirements and restrictions apply. For more information and to complete an application, visit the county website.
Pottstown to get $5M in electrical infrastructure upgrades
PECO has begun a $5 million upgrade to the electrical infrastructure in Pottstown Borough. The project will replace 132 utility poles, add new ones and string 18,000 feet of new electric wires. The improvements are designed to enhance reliability, increase capacity to meet increased electric usage, and support the future growth of solar-generated power, according to PECO spokesman Greg Smore. About 39 street trees will be removed due to the work. Borough Manager Justin Keller indicated that PECO is working with the borough to find a “TreeVitalize” grant that will provide replacement trees.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 10/23/2020
Housing crisis looms as eviction moratorium legislation stalls in city council
Thousands of Philadelphians could lose their homes in two weeks unless city council members reach a consensus on reinstating an eviction moratorium. As coronavirus cases surge, the council’s housing committee is considering bills that would enact an eviction moratorium until the end of the year while also extending rent repayment plan timelines and the ban on late fees. But the moratorium bill failed to advance out of committee last week because of disagreements among councilmembers over whether the legislation should apply to all renters or just those who have a COVID-19-related hardship. Now, time is running out. Although Philadelphia’s previous eviction moratorium lapsed on Aug. 31, courts are voluntarily pausing evictions through Nov. 8. The local bill under consideration would be in addition to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium, which is in place through the end of the year but comes with complicated requirements and ambiguity. If a moratorium is not passed and the court’s ban expires, Vikram Patel, a staff attorney in Community Legal Services of Philadelphia’s housing unit, said about 2,000 cases that began before the pandemic could move forward.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/27/2020