California Props 2020

Prop 19 lets older folks move their property tax assessment more freely

Published: Mon, Oct 12, 2020, 7:54 PM
Updated: Wed, Oct 28, 2020, 1:12 AM
California Props 2020

Prop 19 lets older folks move their property tax assessment more freely

Published: Mon, Oct 12, 2020, 7:54 PM
Updated: Wed, Oct 28, 2020, 1:12 AM

As it is now, homeowners who are over 55 can transfer their property tax rate to a new home. However, restrictions apply: they must move to a less expensive home, must move to one of ten counties that accept this transfer, and can use this transfer only once. Prop 19 would remove those restrictions... and more.

In addition, as it is now, if you inherit a home from a parent or grandparent today, the taxable value of the home stays the same after you inherit it even though it has changed ownership.

If this looks like something you once squinted at, it's because CA voted on something similar two years ago, Prop 5 (2018). After ~60% of voters rejected that, the California Association of Realtors revamped it, spiced it up with provisions that would create more liquidity in the housing market, and got it through the legislature.

In addition to allowing 55yo+ move with their current property tax assessment anywhere in California, to any size home, up to 3 times in their life, Prop 19 would also:

  • Expand those eligible to include: severely disabled and families whose homes were destroyed by wildfire or disaster.
  • Require that any new revenue generated from Prop 19 go to state fire protection (The realtors association needed the support of the state's largest firefighter's union.)
  • Adjust the tax assessment of inherited homes (and farms) if they are not used as the primary residence, or if the inherited property is worth $1M more today than its last assessment. For the former case, the inherited home will be treated as a new home triggering a reassessment. For the latter, the new taxable value =  market value minus $1M. A third case: If someone inherited a home whose market value is under $1M more than the last assessment, and they use it as their primary residence, then they keep the last assessment (as if Prop 19 never existed).

The change for the inherited tax break is to generate more property tax revenue. (Note that Prop 5 (2018) was estimated eventually to lose local government's $1 billion a year. Prop 19 is at least expected to be out of the red.) All in all, even though some will pay less taxes when they move, the LAO estimates Prop 19 would eventually create a net gain for local governments of a "few hundred million dollars per year." Normally, 40% of property taxes goes to schools, but as stipulated, the gains from Prop 19 would primarily go to fire protection.

The Yes side says...

As they did in 2018, supporters say this helps empty-nesters who want to move but can't because they pay so little in property taxes now and would have to pay a lot if they bought a new place (thanks Prop 13). It would incentivize long-time homeowners to move, freeing up homes to the market. 

The No side says...

Those opposed say this is so obviously a self-serving proposition from the real estate industry to sell more homes in California. Even looking past that, this would further the inequities created by Prop 13, which rewards long-time homeowners. They say that the solution to fix our tangled property tax system is not to create more inequity. It's to reform it altogether. And creating more liquidity may help, but ultimately, we need to make more homes.

In terms of the inherited property tax break, opinions are mixed. Some think we should get rid of it, as Prop 19 proposes; others say it's not just. In many instances, people turn their inherited property into a rental while skirting the taxes that new homeowners would have to pay.

There's so many parts to this, I don't know how I feel

Which part do you like the most?

That inherited properties not used as the primary residence are taxed more appropriately now

But it feels like yet another way that realtors will make more money if this passes

How so?

If they're taxed higher, the people who inherited the home are more likely to sell it

That's not necessarily bad though. More homes on the market.

And kinda/very unrelated to the main part of the proposition about tax portability

Yea, maybe a thirst trap

Perhaps it was added so that Prop 19 nets positive in tax revenue, unlike the prop they tried to sell us in 2018.

Easy to make villains of the rich too. Tax loophole you say? Gotta close it

Funneling the tax revenue to fight fires is the real thirst trap

I think my biggest qualm with the main part of this prop is that continues the inequity of long-time homeowners.

But, it would open up more houses, maybe larger houses from empty-nesters.

I dunno, I heard that in a spam text.

I could believe that, but it definitely doesn't solve our housing crisis

Nobody says it will.

Is making the property tax system more complex by giving older, long-time homeowners a break here worth a bit more liquidity?

Let me rephrase that for you.

Is closing a loophole that generates property tax revenue, and giving older homeowners and incentive to move, better or worse than our current situation?

I like my phrasing better

Note: We intentionally omit links to arguments & rebuttals found in CA's official voter guide. We believe they exaggerate claims, are not fact-checked, and use ALL CAPS irresponsibly.