By Bob Jennings
Santa Ynez Valley Association of Realtors
Finding appropriate housing has never been so difficult in California, given skyrocketing prices and limited inventory. And this November, voters will determine consequential outcomes for the state’s housing future.
As a licensed Realtor, I see these challenges firsthand every day. But empty-nesters face a particular challenge. Many seniors whose children have grown and gone have a desire to downsize, to sell their three- or four-bedroom home and relocate closer to family members. But they know that if they do, they’ll pay a moving penalty in the form of drastically higher property taxes. It’s the kind of tax sticker shock that keeps these homeowners right where they are. And in turn, that keeps a vise on California’s housing supply, with fewer single-family homes going on the market. That is neither fair nor wise.
This November, California voters can move decisively to help solve both of these problems by voting yes on Proposition 5, the Property Tax Fairness Initiative.
Proposition 5 would protect those 55 years of age and older by providing them the opportunity to take their property tax protections with them when they move. That means providing the flexibility to move to a more suitable, practical home, or to a home that’s closer to children and grandchildren.
Seniors aren’t the only ones who would be helped. That same protection would be extended to the severely disabled and to victims of natural disasters. In a year when wildfires have devastated large portions of California’s rural and urban landscape and caused widespread housing losses, this kind of change makes even more sense. Proposition 5 would also replace an inconsistent patchwork of confusing rules about property tax protections that vary from county to county throughout the state.
There are also other competing measures on the ballot this November, like Proposition 10, the so-called “Affordable Housing Act,” that would actually make the housing crisis worse. It would repeal important protections for homeowners that have worked for more than 20 years and would let local government bureaucracies pass new rent control laws, which worsen shortage and affordability issues.
New government fees and regulations under this measure would provide a powerful motive for homeowners to sell or convert rental properties into other more profitable uses such as vacation rentals. That would serve to increase the cost of existing housing and make it even harder for renters to find affordable housing in the future. It’s already a significant problem, with California hosting six of the nation’s 11 most expensive rental markets.
We are all aware of the need to address California’s housing shortage. With severely limited supply and prices going up, too many homebuyers are priced out of the market. In the Santa Ynez Valley, the median price of housing is now $818,000 — up 6.2 percent from a year ago.
As a Realtor, Santa Ynez Valley resident and Californian, I urge voters to look closely at this year’s ballot, as our state’s housing future depends on it.
Bob Jennings is president of the Santa Ynez Valley Association of Realtors.