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“End the Abatement” Street Art Installations Pop Up in Philly Neighborhoods

August 26, 2019

Over the last week or so, at least two street art installations popped up in two Philly neighborhoods calling for the end of Philadelphia’s 10-year Tax Abatement. The first, photographed above, a sign installation on Frankford avenue at Belgrade street in Fishtown. The second, photographed below, a wheatpaste at 22nd street and Washington avenue on the border of Graduate Hospital and Grays Ferry. Both read “End the Abatement” in the same font, so it’s safe to assume these were created by the same artist. The wheatpase adds the line of text: “Fund Our Public Schools.”

The Abatement, if you’re unfamiliar, is an increasingly unpopular Philly law enacted in the year 2000 that provides a tax exemption for all new construction for 10 years. It’s a super blunt tool that was created at a time when Philadelphia’s population had been decreasing for decades, and City Hall created it to incentivize development. The Abatement offers the same tax break to those building glass towers in Center City and those building single family homes and everything in between. Nearly two decades later, most people are asking for the Abatement to come to an end altogether or at the very least for it to be refined.

How unpopular is the Abatement today? So unpopular that most of the At-large Philadelphia City Council candidates that ran for election in 2019 ran opposing it. In fact, sitting City Council Member, Helen Gym, who won her primary reelection by one of the largest margins in recent local political history, just retweeted the 22nd and Washington “End the Abatement” wheatpaste last night before this post even when up.

At the core of the issue is the idea of fairness, and the reality that Philadelphians need the wealthy and better off to pay their fair share. It’s hard for many, including myself, to square away the fact that people with means can buy a $600,000 new construction home and then not pay taxes on it for a decade. That’s a decade’s worth of tax money that could go to our public schools, public transit, parks and recreation centers, and generally go to support the neighborhood that they just moved in to. It feels widely unfair, because well it is unfair. And it needs to change now.

The 2000 law was a bandaid that should have been redressed a long time ago. It may have been useful to kickstart some new development, but one quick walk through almost any Philly neighborhood today will well enough assure you that the boom has boomed and is booming like any boom has ever boomed before.

A lot has changed since the year 2000, Philly’s 10-year Tax Abatement for new construction should too.

P.s. If you’re the artist who created these pieces and you’d like credit, please hit me up

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