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If Prop. 13 didn’t’ exist you couldn’t afford to live near the $1.1M Valley resale home
Dennis Wyatt new mug
Dennis Wyatt

Thirteen, contrary to popular culture, is a lucky number.

Especially when it comes to buyers who barely qualify to purchase a home.

It’s because Proposition 13 protects them just as much as it does someone that has resided in the same home for the past 30 years.

If you doubt that, let’s take a trip down memory lane with a detour through Manteca’s red-hot resale neighborhood. It’s the one southeast of Woodward Avenue and South Main Street where several homes have closed escrow in excess of $1.1 million in recent months.

A similar home located within two blocks to the ones that went for $1.1 million sold three years ago for a tad under $700,000.

Assuming owners of the home bought three years ago don’t sell and move before next year, their 2023 property assessment will have increased just under $30,000 based on the 2 percent annual cap put in place by voters in 1978.

But if Proposition 13 weren’t in place, their property assessment would soar by $400,000 to reflect the most current market value based on the $1.1 million same price of the home located within two blocks.

Using the basic property tax rate of 1 percent, the family that bought their house four years ago and stayed put would see their property taxes increase $4,000 since they purchased it instead of $300 in a four-year period.

That is exactly what fanned voter anger in 1978. And that was against the backdrop of the California Legislature giving lip serve to their promise of property tax reform for nearly a decade.

Those attacking Proposition 13 over the years will sometimes make statements such as “name me one person that lost their home due to raising property tax assessments.”

It would be a fair question if it wasn’t for the fact it is asked in vacuum.

It assumes people would be ignorant enough to not finally sell even if they didn’t want to and let their home go into foreclosure and lose their house after five years for non-payment of property taxes.

The San Jose Mercury News in the 1970s ran stories on the plight of longtime homeowners in downtown San Jose who were forced to sell because they couldn’t afford the exorbitant property tax bill hike created when a major office building was erected within several blocks.

Technically they didn’t lose their home to high property taxes. But if they had stayed put and couldn’t afford to pay massive property tax assessment hikes, they would have lost their homes.

Go ahead and say it: They had a choice.

But did they?

The option was to stay put, lose their shirt and be out on the street in five years or sell.

That isn’t a choice. It’s the government allowing market forces to serve as a de facto form of eminent domain to displace people who have no desire to move.

It weaponized the tax system to displace people of less wealth.

As such it underscores one indisputable truth that proponents of abolishing Proposition 13 conveniently forget.  If you take away Proposition 13 protection there would be literally hundreds of thousands of older people as well as families who aren’t making big buck paychecks who are barely getting by to stay fed and keep a roof over their head thrown out of what is currently affordable housing for them.

The misnomer, of course is they can take the money and buy elsewhere.

But what if they want to stay in the community?

Let’s go back to 1993. Although it is an eminent domain case it has everything to do with the fallacy that someone owning a home on a limited income who isn’t growing can afford to stay in a community if they were displaced by rapidly increasing market prices of housing.

There was an 82-year-old lady who lived in the 200 block of Sherman Avenue.

San Joaquin County wanted her home to expand parking at the Manteca courthouse on Center Street.

She didn’t want to sell. The county used eminent domain to take over the property at a fair market price that was around $84,000.

When she complained at a public meeting the county was forcing her to leave the community she had lived in for 40 years and raised a family, a Stockton Record reporter asked her why she didn’t just buy another home in Manteca given she got $84,000.

Her answer: That wasn’t happening at her age on Social Security given the median prices of homes had soared past $130,000. There was nothing in the price range in Manteca and she couldn’t afford masking monthly payments even if every cent of the $84,000 went toward a house.

The county, by the way, has yet to tear down the house for a parking lot.

 The fate of the 82-year-old woman underscores the same plight a large number of others would face in a California real estate market not tempered by Proposition 13.

Proposition 13 has helped keep the lower middle class and the upper portion of the traditional working class in owner occupied dwellings in a large swath of the state with intense urbanization or strong growth.

Those who assail Proposition 13 do so on the premise it is starving government of revenue.

You and I would be lucky to be on such a starvation diet.

Government revenues today have grown faster than the rate of inflation since 1978. And that’s even with growth factored into the equation.

The big change is we have more government today in comparison to 1978 levels.

And that’s not just more regulations and such.

Things that once were provided by the private sector are now part of the everyday government menu offerings.

Government costs money.

And rest assured Sacramento found other sources of money a long time ago to replace what they lost and then a lot more when Proposition 13 capped property taxes to a degree.

Do not cry for Sacramento.