Is There An Exemption from Construction Tax for An Apartment Complex for Low-Income Elderly and Handicapped ?

In G.D.L. Plaza Corporation v. Council Rock School District (G.D.L.) (Gloria Dei Lutheran Church), 515 Pa. 54, 526 A.2d 1173 (1987) a non-profit corporation wanted to construct an apartment complex for low-income elderly and handicapped persons and claim a tax exemption from the construction tax as a charity founded, endowed and maintained as public charity. See 72 P.S. 5020-204(a)(3). Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financed the apartment complex pursuant to Section 202 of the Housing Act of 1959, 12 U.S.C. 1701q. All of the residents were authorized to receive monthly assistance with their rent payments between 25% of their income and the maximum monthly rent for the unit. The service G.D.L. provided was transportation; each resident's unit had a call button for assistance; G.D.L. provided assistance with doctors' visits and counseling and financial problems; and the entire financial support for the project was derived from the federal government. A management fee was paid based on a percentage of the revenue generated by the rents received, and gross rents covered 100% of G.D.L.'s operating costs. Relying on the Hospital Utilization Project v. Commonwealth test, this Court found that G.D.L. did not donate a substantial portion of its services. On appeal, our Supreme Court affirmed, focusing on the fact that the federal government footed the bill for everything, and G.D.L. would not be adversely affected by subjecting its property to real estate taxes. The Court agreed that all operating costs of G.D.L. not covered by the tenants' rents were paid by the federal government, including salaries of those "who provide the services for G.D.L. and the expenses for the services themselves, all of which are channeled through the management fee paid to G.D.O. (Gloria Dei Outreach Corporation) from revenue obtained from the government subsidies." Id. at 63, 526 A.2d at 1177. the Court went on to state: Close scrutiny reveals that the foregoing circumstances occur not fortuitously, but by design. The federal government as a matter of policy has provided that the Department shall coordinate the implementation of the Section 202 mortgage loan program and the Section 8 housing assistance payments program. 12 U.S.C. 1701q(g). Non-profit organizations are thus encouraged to undertake the work of increasing the housing supply for elderly and handicapped people without assuming any financial risk. Id. The Court further pointed out that the contract provided for the HUD secretary to make additional adjustments to the monthly rent to reflect increases as a result of necessary expenses of owning and maintaining the units resulting from substantial general increases in real property taxes among other costs.