In last week’s column, I referred to recent laws affecting residential zoning. Here are the details. That fall, Governor Newsom signed Senate Act No. 9 (SB9), and in one fell swoop, almost completely ended single-family home zoning in California. The new law allows the construction of up to two semi-detached houses on plots of single-family houses, which increases the density of residential areas and possibly changes the character of the neighborhoods without the involvement of the people living there.
It’s one thing to tell potential homeowners before buying that the property next door could end up with a maisonette. Changing the zoning after people have bought property at a certain price is a whole different story based on an understanding that they are moving to a neighborhood where there will only be one single family home per lot.
This is in large part a legacy of Proposition 13, which has capped property tax increases mainly to 2 percent annually since 1978. One of the unintended consequences has been that taxes levied in Zone R1 (single-family homes) areas have not kept pace with the cost of government-funded services in those areas over time. Is it surprising that cities and rural districts are doing everything they can to slow down the construction of single-family homes?
For the record, I’m not in favor of Proposition 13 because it’s unfair. There is no reason my neighbor and I should pay different tax rates when our houses have the same market value and we benefit from the same government-funded services; the only difference is that one of us bought our house 20 years ago. Without Prop. 13, the property tax rates could be balanced among all property owners. This could be done in a non-returnable manner, with long-time home owners increasing and new owners decreasing. Unfortunately, repealing Prop. 13 would likely be a political suicide for any elected official.
Before SB9 was passed, zoning was in the hands of local government officials. Even if local decision-makers want to keep single-family zoning, the state will not allow it.
Although a property according to SB9 must meet certain criteria before it can be converted into an apartment building, the whole thing is still a bait and switch. As long as a property owner has lived on their property for at least three years before the division and the property is large enough, nothing will stop them from adding a semi-detached house and renting it out.
Anyone who tells you SB9 is important because it addresses the California housing shortage is insincere. If government officials wanted to address the housing shortage, they would ditch the pesky, unnecessary, and expensive requirements that have been put into California building codes for the past 20 years, such as CEQA ratings that add up to at least $ 75,000 per home. Government officials would also allow more agriculture and pasture land to be rededicated as residential area.
We have a housing shortage, but SB9 is certainly not a good solution.
If you have any questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at [email protected] or by phone at (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column let me know and when I use it I’ll send you a $ 25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. To see previous articles, visit www.selzerrealty.com and click “What’s the Market”.
Dick Selzer is a real estate agent who has been in business for more than 45 years.