California Proposition 19: Letting senior homeowners pay lower property taxes if they move while raising taxes for some people with inherited property

Election guide

This is a complicated one. Hang on to your hats.

Voting yes on Prop 19 means amending the state constitution so that homeowners who are 55 or older, victims of wildfires or who have a disability pay property taxes based on their previous residence when buying new homes.

This would save them money: Homes bought years ago have much lower property taxes compared to newly purchased homes, thanks to Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 ballot measure that has only allowed for incremental increases on property taxes (see this year’s Prop 15, which addresses commercial property tax).

Prop 19 would also require higher taxes from people who have inherited homes and don’t use them as their primary residence. Their property taxes would be reassessed based on a home’s current market value.

The proposition originated after a 2018 ballot measure, Prop 5, failed. It was meant to benefit seniors’ property taxes, and enable them to move out of long-held homes. Then a Los Angeles Times article brought to light a beachfront Malibu home owned by actor Jeff Bridges and his siblings that they inherited from their mother. The four-bedroom home, which at the time was renting for $15,995 a month, only cost them $5,700 in property taxes annually.

Voting no on Prop 19 means senior homeowners who move will have to pay property taxes based on their new home’s purchase price, just like almost every other California homeowner. If seniors want to take advantage of tax breaks when moving, they would continue to have to meet strict conditions, such as where they can buy a new home or how much they can spend.

And also, people who inherit properties could keep paying lower taxes even if they rent those properties out or use them as second homes.

Supporters: The measure, which is expected to generate tens of millions of dollars in government revenue each year, would establish a fire protection service fund that has received support from firefighters. That element of the measure is the result of the firefighters’ union’s opposition to Prop 5 in 2018.

More people are expected to buy homes if Prop 19 passes, and it has the enthusiastic backing of California Association of Realtors, which also authored Prop 5.

The California Democratic Party and Newsom also support the measure.

Overall, proponents have spent more than $36.6 million to promote the proposition.

Critics: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has spent $45,000 to oppose Prop 19. Opponents say it would increase taxes on families, and that the measure “takes away one of the best tools parents have to help their children … .”

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