2012 land values shock City residents, soar in Mexican War Streets


The green dots on this map show land parcels where owners will see tax increases of 50 percent or more, according to Pitt Professor Christopher Briem. (Courtesy Christopher Briem)

News regarding property assessments gave homeowners throughout the city of Pittsburgh whiplash last week, when like other City residents, Northsiders were told their property value had at least doubled.

Property assessments for 2012, which dictate the official value of homes and land, were announced last week, and the numbers shocked residents. The average home had more than doubled in value by Allegheny County’s consultant’s new numbers.

Across the city and in most Northside neighborhoods, the average property values rose by 58 percent. Owners whose property rose less than 58 percent will see decreased taxes, while those whose property rose 58 percent or higher will see increased taxes. 

According to community leaders throughout the Northside, most neighborhood property values fall around the 58 percent increase, meaning their taxes would not be significantly increased if at all.

 The Northside exception to this was found in the Mexican War Streets where home owners saw increases that soared as high as 500 percent. The Mexican War Streets, Lawrenceville and East Liberty were the neighborhoods in the city that saw the highest increases for the 2012 property assessments.

Outside of the Mexican War Streets, areas of Manchester, East Deutschtown and other properties scattered throughout the Northside saw significant increases of more than 58 perecent.

Within hours of being released, the county saw fallout from the new numbers.

So many homeowners throughout the City filed for appeals that the call lines were jammed and they had to bring in extra operators to help field calls and schedule appeals, and on January 5, Pittsburgh Public School district asked the court to delay the use of the 2012 numbers until 2013.

Before the court made a decision, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that he was throwing out the 2012 numbers. Within 24 hours, the court issued an order barring Fitzgerald from using the old values for 2012 taxes as he had promised, until the court had made its decision.  

As of press time, the court has not made a decision.

“It is time to stop the reassessment madness.  This chaotic reassessment process has caused panic among homeowners, small business owners and all taxpayers, creating a widespread fear that people, especially seniors and those who can least afford it, will be taxed out of their homes,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in a statement.

As assessments are a county rather than City issue, Ravenstahl is not directly involved, but encourages Pittsburghers to continue their appeals regardless of the numbers being in limbo.

A study done by University of Pittsburgh Urban Studies Professor Christopher Briem showed that with the newly reassessed values, two out of three home owners would pay less real estate tax.

According to Briem, only 25 percent of the parcels in the City will see a tax increase of 10 percent or more, though he noted that the Mexican War Streets is one of the areas that would see the increases.

Briem noted that the reassessment “kind of writes the story of redevelopment in the city of Pittsburgh we almost universally shout out as a positive story, except now when it comes to taxation.”

For more of Briem’s assessment calculations, click here.

Northside Chronicle Town Hall Subscription