We are disappointed and bummed out.

Yesterday, the Office of Property Assessment released 2014 property assessments, with an eye toward the novel idea of taxing properties in this town based on what they’re worth. We took a look at a random sampling of data from the new assessments, and we did discover improved fairness across the board. But we also found that the data is fatally flawed, a fact that undermines every assessment in the city.

Today, we bring

1) Land in Philadelphia is pretty much worthless. Each assessment is based on the combination of the value of land plus the improvements to the land (in most cases a home). In reality, a home in Fitler Square is worth more than a home in Passyunk Square because the location is extremely desirable and the land is therefore more valuable. In Fantasy Land (Philadelphia), this truth is turned on its head.

For example, a home on the 2400 block of Naudain was assessed at $491K, with a land value of about $53K. A home on the 1200 block of Ellsworth with a similarly sized lot was assessed at $320K, with a land value of about $15K. This despite the fact that the land was purchased ten years ago for $40K.

So great, OPA realizes that land is worth more in Fitler Square than in Passyunk Square. But really? The older Naudain building is worth $133K more than the Ellsworth Street property while was built just a couple of years ago? And really? You can buy a lot in Fitler Square for fifty grand? And a lot in Passyunk Square for fifteen grand? From what we can tell, land was dramatically undervalued across the entire city. This is not only counterintuitive on its face, but it also represents the missed opportunity of forcing people with tax abatements to take on some role in paying property taxes. Instead, tax abated properties are mostly seeing their taxes go down, as their assessed land value goes from undervalued to hilariously undervalued.