When I first took council office in January 2016, I had three main priorities. One, dramatically improve our collection of delinquent taxes; two, correct inaccurate real estate assessments, especially for commercial properties; and three, create a game plan for fixing the pension fund which is underfunded by $6 billion. Mayor Kenney and many of my fellow city council members are committed to these issues and I can confidently say that we are moving in the right direction in all three areas.
Moving forward, I want to continue getting the message out about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In prior years, 40,000 eligible Philadelphians have left $100 million cumulatively on the table just by not applying for this credit. We have to do a better job educating those eligible how to apply.
There are many practical business solutions and best practices used in the private sector that if applied to city government, can make us run much more efficiently. I bring those suggestions to the table where I think they can make a difference.
I am also highly focused on revamping the city’s tax system in an effort to retain existing companies and attract new ones. The jobs created by companies who choose to locate in Philadelphia are key to the city’s long-term success and growth. I believe that we need to really hone in on attracting technology companies—the economic multiplier for these jobs is higher than any other industry; for each job created in the tech sector, approximately five more are created in other sectors. We currently have about 14,000 tech jobs, while New York has 534,000; this could provide immense business opportunity for Philadelphia. Comcast is the best example of a company accomplishing this goal on a large scale. On the startup/tech scene, Curalate is a great model; this Center City-based technology firm has gone from one to approximately 150 employees in only four years.
From the perspective of a real estate professional and businessperson, there is no denying that the Center City real estate market is robust. Millennials, families and empty nesters alike are all vying for highly coveted downtown—and greater Center City—real estate. Even with new inventory coming online adding to existing inventory, the market is tight.
The two main buyers for residential real estate in Philadelphia today are baby boomers and millennials. Baby boomers, many of whom have second and third homes at the Shore and in Florida, are leaving the suburbs for the urban lifestyle and are buying in the core neighborhoods of Center City—Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, Society Hill. Millennials are choosing an urban lifestyle for the sense of community, walkability and many conveniences the city has to offer— many of these millennials are populating the neighborhoods of Greater Center City such as Fishtown, Northern Liberties, Point Breeze, Graduate Hospital and Gray’s Ferry. Over the past eight years, we have seen an increase from 22 percent to 45 percent of non-native college graduates staying in Philadelphia, and over the past four years, Philadelphia had the largest percentage gain of millennials out of the country’s 20 largest cities. This bodes well for both resale and new construction which is at an all-time high of over $8 billion in the pipeline.
Overall, Philadelphia will continue to do well, provided we continue to create new jobs, reduce the poverty level—which is currently at 400,000 people—improve our schools and create favorable tax laws which encourage new and existing companies to relocate and expand in Philadelphia.
Allan Domb is the owner of Allan Domb Real Estate, a multi-faceted real estate brokerage and development firm focused on Center City, as well as a Philadelphia City Councilman At-Large.
Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 10 (September, 2016).
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