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2018 election

For young California homeowners, a proposed 2018 initiative could make buying a new house a lot less expensive

 (Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times)
(Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times)

Under a ballot measure filed Thursday, California's landmark Proposition 13 property tax breaks would be extended to young homeowners who sell their residence and buy a new one.

The proposal, which aims for a spot on the November 2018 statewide ballot, would allow homeowners of any age to carry a portion of their existing property tax rate across county lines when they purchase a new house. Homeowners often are reluctant to switch houses, given that Proposition 13's cap on annual property taxes ends once they sell and move somewhere else.

"A lot of people kind of feel locked into their properties," said Alex Creel, a lobbyist for the California Assn. of Realtors, who filed the proposed initiative. "This will free up those folks."

The new tax rate, Creel said, would be based on a "blended" value of the old and new properties, and could be considerably lower than the market rate property tax otherwise assessed once a new home is bought.

Creel filed three different versions of the proposal, all of which would create tax incentives for selling one house and buying another.

Homeowners older than 55 in certain counties can already transfer existing property tax rates to a new home of equal or less value. Creel's initiatives, though, would expand the program. One version would retain the age restriction, but make the program available statewide. Two other versions would remove all age limits, likely enticing young homeowners to sell and buy homes.

Unlike current law, the proposal would allow homeowners to take advantage of the tax break as many times as they want.

Creel said the broader impact on statewide property tax revenue is unclear, and that the realtors group won't decide until the fall whether to mount a political campaign to place one of them on the 2018 ballot.

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