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Smart Voter
San Francisco County, CA November 4, 2014 Election
Proposition G
Additional Transfer Tax on Residential Property Sold Within 5 Years of Purchase
City of San Francisco

Majority Approval Required

Fail: 100,776 / 46.09% Yes votes ...... 117,887 / 53.91% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Yes/No Meaning | Arguments |

Shall the City impose an additional tax of between 14% and 24% on the total sale price of certain multi-unit residential properties that are sold within five years of purchase or transfer, subject to certain exceptions?

The Way It Is Now: The City collects a transfer tax on sales of most real property in San Francisco.The tax rate depends on the sale price of the property.The lowest tax rate is 0.5%, for property sold for $250,000 or less.The highest tax rate is 2.5%, for property sold for $10,000,000 or more.The tax rate is not affected by how long a property is owned.

The Proposal: Proposition G would impose an additional tax on the total sale price of certain multi-unit residential properties that are sold within five years of purchase or transfer.The following table shows the tax rates that would apply:

Length of Time Seller Has Owned the Property Tax Rate Less than one year 24% One to two years 22% Two to three years 20% Three to four years 18% Four to five years 14%

This additional tax would apply to sales occurring on or after January 1, 2015. This additional tax would not apply in the following circumstances:

  • The property is a single-family house or condominium and does not include an in-law unit;
  • An owner of the property, including a tenancy-in- common unit, has used it as a primary residence for at least one year immediately before the sale;
  • The property contains more than 30 separate residential units;
  • The property is sold for an amount equal to or less than what the seller paid for the property;
  • The property is sold within one year of a property owner's death;
  • The property is legally restricted to low- and middle income households;
  • The property is newly built housing;
  • The property meets the following criteria: it contains no more than two dwelling units; the seller applied on or before July 1, 2014, for a building permit for a project with a total construction cost of $500,000 or more; and the last permit was issued no more than a year before the sale of the property; or
  • The sale of the property is exempt from the exist- ing transfer tax.

This measure would also authorize the Board of Supervisors to create additional exemptions from both the existing transfer tax and this proposed additional tax for properties that are subject to affordability- based restrictions.

Fiscal Impact:
City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition G:

Should the proposed initiative ordinance be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it could have an impact on government revenues.The proposed ordinance may affect property sales and therefore the transfer tax revenues received by the City.

The ultimate effects of the ordinance would depend on property owners' behavior and on market conditions. In the event that the high transfer tax rates imposed by the ordinance cause owners to hold property for longer than they would have otherwise, and/or reduces the number of property transactions, the ordinance would effectively decrease the transfer tax revenue received by the City.

The amendment provides for a surtax added to the existing property transfer tax imposed on certain residential properties if they are purchased and sold within a five year period. Current transfer tax rates range from 0.5% of the sale price for properties less than $250,000 to 2.5% for properties greater than $10 million.The surtax would range from 24% to 14% depending on the length of time a property was held between purchase and sale. Exemptions are provided for various types of properties and ownership circumstances.

In a typical year over the last eight year period, approximately 60 properties would have been subject to the tax had it been in effect, and been subject to an average surtax amount of approximately $413,000.

Meaning of Voting Yes/No
A YES vote on this measure means:
If you vote "yes," you want the City to impose an additional tax of between 14% and 24% on the total sale price of certain multi-unit residential properties that are sold within five years of purchase or transfer, subject to certain exceptions.

A NO vote on this measure means:
If you vote "no," you do not want the City to impose this additional tax.

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Arguments For Proposition G Arguments Against Proposition G
San Francisco is becoming the most unaffordable city in the country. As we experience our worst housing crisis in history, too many of our friends and neighbors are being forced to leave. Driving this crisis is the "flipping" of properties: quickly buying and reselling apartment buildings for windfall profits.

As a result we are losing the people who have made our City work: Teachers, Nurses, First - Responders, Service Workers and many others.The character of San Francisco is in jeopardy.

The speculators who have descended on our neighborhoods have no interest in making long- term investments in our city. After flipping one building, they move on to another and another.Their mantra: `Buy, push out residents and businesses, and sell.'

Today the city has no effective policy to control speculators. There is no law to stop them from buying and flipping buildings. Our limited supply of housing is being auctioned off without care for the families or communities impacted.To sustain our economy and the character of our city, we must rein in this speculative wave.

Proposition G is a critical step towards addressing this crisis.

Proposition G will require speculators to operate by reasonable rules and encourage them to invest in the City for the long term. Proposition G will:

  • require investors in apartment buildings to buy and hold their buildings for a minimum of five years or pay a graduated surtax on the re-sale price;
  • encourage new construction of housing;
  • encourage preservation of housing affordable to a majority of San Franciscans;
  • impose no new taxes on owners of single family homes or condominiums.

We need the protection that Proposition G provides to save homes and protect our neighborhoods.

Real estate is a pawn in the game of global finance. Easy money here and easy money from abroad work to accelerate the unaffordability of San Francisco.This proposition does nothing to alleviate the driving force, but it is the blunt tool designed to punish small players at the end of the chain of money creation.The hated speculator.There would be no speculators if there was nothing to speculate on.They are speculating on inflation.The inflation is not their fault.They didn't print trillions of dollars out of thin air.

What is also interesting about this proposition, like almost all politics these days, is that it exempts the big guys. Have more than thirty units, flip away. This proposition also deters another class of speculators: the improvers.The small business that is good at renovating and doing it in a timely manner.The tax is many times the existing rate. It is effectively a ban with exemptions for politically sensitive classes.

It is a universal law of human nature that every law has unintended consequences. It is likely that a new class of speculator will emerge. It will probably be the big corporations who have access to super cheap money and can afford to let the property lie fallow for five years to avoid the tax while inflation rages on. Do you really want to punish the little guys who are not the cause of the problem, and reward the giant corporations that control and feed at the trough of the Federal Reserve's cheap loans? Do you want another law that encourages more empty buildings waiting to escape another tax?

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Created: July 23, 2015 14:58 PDT
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