Examining Tax Reform in CA

Research conducted by California State University East Bay, with funding provided by Housing California


Housing California is interested in how current commercial/residential property-tax policies affect Californians' ability to afford rents/mortgages. In winter 2013 Housing California partnerned with the California State University East Bay to conduct a survey of Californians to guage how they feel about the California tax policies in Proposition 13 (passed in 1978). 


  • Conducted by: California State University, East Bay (CSUEB)

  • Timeframe: November 18, 2013 to February 9, 2014 

  • Those surveyed: 511 California registered voters 

  • Margin of error: Plus or minus 4 percent


About Prop. 13

Passed in 1978, Prop. 13 reduced property taxes for homeowners and business property owners, limited future increases to property taxes, and instituted supermajority rules to pass local tax measures.


Highlights of the survey findings


 (1). A strong majority support changes to Prop. 13's rules for assessing commercial and business property taxes:


  • 75 percent said they would support an initiative that insured reassessment when commercial property changes ownership (currently, changes in ownership of commercial properties are often structured in such a way as to not cause a reassessment). 


  • 64 percent support taxing commercial property at its current market value (known as "split roll" reform).


(2). 50 percent of those polled disapprove of Prop. 13's rule that residential property-tax increases are limited to 2 percent a year (of the assessed home value), until the property is sold, at which time property taxes are reassessed at the sale price. Because the value of homes in California often increased by more than 2 percent per year, the homeowner rules often lead to substantial disparities in tax bills on similar homes in the same neighborhood.


(3). 54 percent of those polled want to keep the 2/3 supermajority required to pass local tax measures; whereas 41 percent would like to see the threshold lowered to 55 percent for at least some local tax measures. 


  • Within the 41 percent who would like to reduce the threshold to 55 percent for at least some local tax measures, they prioritized "affordable homes" and "economic development" just under "schools." 


  • Similarly, when asked if government should spend more, less, or the same on various items, "affordable homes," "economic development," and "mental health" were high priorities, second only to "schools."


Learn more about the poll's findings: California Voters Support Some Changes to Proposition 13 (April 15, 2014), written by CSUEB Sociology Professor Carl Stempel.


Other polls on Prop. 13 reform


Many of the general findings were echoed in polls by:



Housing California is continuing to look at the impacts current California tax policies have on Californians' ability to afford a safe, stable place to live.