California Fees May Hinder Housing Growth

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The LA Times reports today that local governments typically charge developers high fees if they want to build new housing and that these fees may slow the growth of new housing stock. This will come as a surprise to exactly no one in the state. But you have to read down to literally the last paragraph to find out why California’s fees are so high:

While the study recommends that lawmakers examine ways to reduce fees, it warns that cities and counties often need the revenue to pay for services because of property tax restrictions put in place by Proposition 13 in 1978. The initiative limits taxes for homes and businesses to 1% of a property’s taxable value.

….“If the state wishes to lower impact fees but also ensure sufficient infrastructure funding, it should consider pathways to adjust Proposition 13 in order to expand the capacity of localities to generate their own revenue,” the report says.

Ha ha ha. The state should “consider pathways” to “adjust” Prop 13. Good luck with that. In the past 40 years, Californians haven’t even been willing to adjust the ridiculous way that Prop 13 allows businesses to keep their assessed property values at 1978 levels forever. There’s no way they’ll be willing to adjust it for their own precious houses.

In the end, Prop 13 accomplished little except to prompt an explosion of fees; move budgeting power almost entirely to Sacramento; and allow businesses to pay lower property taxes.¹ One way or another, though, everything has to be paid for. Taxes, fees, or fines, take your pick. Would reducing one and increasing another really do much to spur housing development in California?

¹The alleged justification behind Prop 13 was that skyrocketing property values were forcing seniors on fixed incomes to sell their lifelong homes because they could no longer afford to pay the taxes on them. I don’t know how widespread this problem really was, but I hardly need to point out that if this was the real issue, there were lots of easy ways to deal with it that didn’t destroy local budgets.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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