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Reading Housing Authority v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

November 12, 2014

Reading Housing Authority
v.
Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Our City-Reading, Inc., Goggle Works Apartments, LLC and Reading School District; Goggle Works Apartments, LLC
v.
Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Our City-Reading, Inc., and Goggle Works Apartments, LLC; Our City-Reading, Inc.
v.
Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Reading School District; Appeal of: Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County, Pennsylvania

Argued September 10, 2014

Appealed from Nos. 13-449, 13-705 & 13-706. Common Pleas Court of the County of Berks. Lash, J.

John B. Nevius, Exton, for appellant.

James H. Thomas, Lancaster, for amicus curiae, National Association of Housing.

Michael C. Kochkodin and David M. Kozloff, Wyomissing, for appellees.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge. President Judge Pellegrini concurs in the result only.

OPINION

Page 870

LEADBETTER, JUDGE

The Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County that sustained the tax assessment appeals of the Reading Housing Authority (RHA), Goggle Works Apartments, LLC, and Our City-Reading, Inc., collectively " Appellees," concluding that the subject property, an apartment building owned by the RHA, which houses a mix of 20% low-income and 80% market-rate tenants, was immune from real estate tax.[1] In 2006, the General

Page 871

Assembly amended the Housing Authorities Law to provide for mixed-use projects.[2] We consider here whether the RHA, which undertook the mixed-use project at issue pursuant to Section 10.1 of the Housing Authorities Law,[3] is using the property for an essential public and governmental purpose such that it is not taxable. For the reasons that follow and based, in large part, on the well-reasoned decision of the Honorable Scott E. Lash, we affirm.

In considering Appellees' tax assessment appeals, Common Pleas conducted a trial and the parties submitted a stipulation of facts in lieu of providing evidence. In relevant part, the facts are as follows. The RHA owns the 59-unit residential apartment building at issue, located at 135 Washington Street, Reading, Pennsylvania, and known as the Goggle Works Apartments. Stipulated Finding of Fact (F.F.) No. 7. The building has 59 individual apartment units, with 44 two-bedroom units and 15 one-bedroom units. F.F. Nos. 52-54. It is commonly referred to as an " 80/20 project," where at least 20% of the units are set aside for low-income residents. F.F. No. 56. In this case, 12 of the units are reserved for low-income housing and the rental rate for these " public units," all one-bedroom apartments, is established according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines and subsidized by HUD. F.F. No. 55. The remaining 47 " market-rate units" are rented at market rates.[4] F.F. No. 60. Construction of the apartment building was completed in the fall of 2012 and the first tenants moved there in October 2012. Approximately 80% of the building is occupied, including all 12 public units and 35 of the market-rate units. F.F. Nos. 70 and 71.

After construction was completed, the Board issued an October 2012 interim, new construction assessment notice to ...


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