Poll: San Jose voters support property transfer tax
A San Jose resident combs through his 2016 ballot which contains numerous bonds and tax measures. Photo by Ramona Giwargis.

A new poll released Thursday found that at least 60 percent of San Jose voters would support a potential real property transfer tax, which would apply to the sale of properties valued at $2 million or more.

The five day poll was funded by the city and conducted by FM3 Research, running from Nov. 5 to 10.

The survey found a majority of likely San Jose voters support the property transfer tax to generate funds for affordable housing, particularly in general obligation bonds or sales tax revenue.

“The poll results indicate that the potential real property transfer tax has a strong likelihood of being viable in the March 3, 2020 primary election,” said Lee Wilcox, the chief of staff to the city manager. “Given the serious needs San Jose faces, with a variety of issues, including homelessness and the lack of affordable housing, emergency response, the administration recommends that the council take the next step in considering placing this potential measure on the ballot.”

The poll surveyed 806 registered voters likely to vote in the March 2020 primary.

The potential tax to be discussed at next week’s City Council meeting only needs a simple majority to pass. San Jose would join many other Bay Area cities in implementing such a tax, including San Francisco, which passed its tiered transfer tax in 2016. Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond followed suit in 2018, but only Berkeley uses the tax revenue for homeless services – the remaining cities did not specify a purpose for the funds.

But unlike those cities, San Jose’s tax would be much lower, starting at $3.75 per $500 of transfer value from $2 to $5 million, 5 per $500 of transfer value from $5 to $10 million and $7.50 per $500 of transfer value for transfers more than $10 million.

Oakland and San Francisco’s tiered rates begin at $10 per $1,000 for up to $300,000 and $5 per $1,000 for up to $250,000, all of which increase incrementally.

If passed by voters, the tax increase would raise about $70 million each year, according to city officials.

The City Council will vote on moving the potential measure forward for the March 2020 ballot at its Nov. 19 meeting. If approved, staff will return to the council by Dec. 3 with a ballot draft. The deadline for the city to submit a draft to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters is Dec. 6.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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