Collins: Prop. 19 offers approach to free up housing inventory
Prop. 19 would give a tax break to older residents to encourage them to sell their houses.

It is widely accepted that the high cost of housing locally is in large part due to an imbalance of supply vs demand.

While building more units would be the best solution for our housing crisis, this path has become increasingly more difficult. Construction is very expensive and the pressure from neighborhood groups that do not want additional density or increased traffic has severely limited the opportunity to produce more housing units.

This November, voters will be able to weigh in on Proposition 19, which attempts to take a very novel approach to address our housing crisis. This proposition, which has been sponsored by the California Association of Realtors, will free up housing inventory for first-time home buyers and growing families while also providing a boost in local tax dollars, establishing a much needed Fire Response Fund and providing support for victims of wildfires.

In Santa Clara County there are well above 100,000 single-family detached homes owned by seniors who are 55 years or older. Many of these houses were probably once filled to capacity with children but as those children became adults many of them had to leave the area because of the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing.

Now many of our seniors are faced with two undesirable choices: Stay locked into a house that is way too big for them and live far away from the rest of their family or sell and face a substantially increased tax burden.

The prospect of paying more property tax on a smaller or less expensive house is a major barrier for those heading into the twilight of their career and towards a life of being on a fixed income.

Prop. 19 removes one of those barriers by allowing seniors to transfer their property tax base to any county in the state thereby freeing up housing inventory and helping to keep families together in the long run.

Locally, we expect more inventory to become available for first-time buyers or growing families that need the extra space. This will not only provide a tremendous opportunity for many to become homeowners but it will also help to revitalize neighborhoods.

Many of those single-family homes are at least 50+ years old. The upkeep of these properties can become overwhelming as years go on. When a house is put on the market, repairs are made, fresh paint is applied and the landscaping is typically upgraded for that curb appeal.

Our aging housing stock needs constant reinvestment to keep it safe, liveable and marketable, which creates much needed jobs and revenue for our workforce during tough economic times.

While Prop. 19 is not the end-all solution to our housing crisis, it is a creative step in the right direction. Considerable care has been taken to make sure counties receive adequate tax revenue by establishing a county offset fund.

With an increase in home sales and those houses being reassessed at current market value, this initiative would generate hundreds of millions of annual funding for fire protection, local government and school districts at a time when funding is scarce.

The initiative is backed by a powerful and diverse coalition consisting of Californians for Disability Rights, California Senior Advocates League, California Professional Firefighters, California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, California Nurses Association, Controller Betty Yee, Gov. Gavin Newsom and many more.

Please take the time to read more about Prop. 19 and above all vote.

San José Spotlight columnist Neil Collins is CEO of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, a trade association representing more than 6,000 real estate professionals in Santa Clara County and surrounding areas. His column appears every fourth Thursday of the month. Contact Neil at [email protected] or follow @neilvcollins on Twitter.

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