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Real Estate

Help for home buyers

HOME BUYER SAVINGS ACCOUNTS PITCHED IN SACRAMENTO

Prospective first-time home buyers could save tens of thousands of dollars toward the purchase of their home, if a new bill passes the state legislature. Southern California Assembly member Marc Steinorth has introduced Assembly Bill 1736, which has been approved by the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development and enjoys bipartisan support.

Under AB 1736, first-time home buyers could open a Homeownership Savings Account” and contribute up to $10,000 a year, which would be exempt from income tax as long as the money is used for a down-payment or closing costs.

“The growing cost of housing threatens the dream of homeownership, which is why I truly believe in the Homeownership Savings Account,” said Steinorth.

CITY HOUSING MARKET SHIFTS

San Francisco’s housing market has begun to bifurcate, with condominiums and housing going in different directions.

With thousands of new condo units hitting the market or preparing to do so, and many more in the pipeline, that is starting to have a supply-and-demand effect on pricing, as many had predicted.

The “demand-per-listing” ratio is declining, especially in neighborhoods with concentrations of new condo developments, and luxury condos are the most affected, according to the latest market report from Paragon Real Estate. “Apparently, the developer rush to build large projects of very expensive condos, possibly outpacing plausible demand for such units, is also playing out in Manhattan … and Miami,” notes Paragon.

That doesn’t mean that the condominium market is collapsing; it merely reflects that the new units are offering competition to the existing units on the market. “There can be no doubt that they comprise serious competition to resale condos in the areas they’re being built,” Paragon reports.

MODERATES LOSE IN HOUSING DEALMAKING

In a mid-April meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee, the board’s progressive wing came out victorious in a tug-of-war with moderate factions over details about the implementation of Proposition C. The June ballot measure, sponsored by supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim of the progressive wing, would more than double the amount of affordable housing required in new housing developments, and the board needed to figure out how developments housing projects already in the pipeline would be treated.

The committee voted to phase in additional affordable housing requirements for properties already in the pipeline, a result that failed to heal the split on the board.

In the end, it was an oh-so-very San Francisco meeting, with the San Francisco Chronicle quoting District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, a leading moderate on the board, as claiming that the meeting had been undercut by backroom deals and amendments ramrodded through the committee. “We owe it to the public to have a fair and transparent process, and that has not happened here.”

Peskin told the Chronicle that there was no backroom deal making, and that the legislation ensures that all projects in the pipeline will “be treated in the same way.”

MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES

Ensuring funding for the city’s street and park trees has been a concern of Supervisor Scott Wiener’s for years. In 2014, he complained that “City Hall has acted as if trees don’t really matter. The city budget has neglected trees for more than 30 years, and the city has adopted the unfair and counter-productive policy of dumping tree maintenance responsibility on homeowners.” He said it was time to create “a lockbox dedicated funding stream” to take care of and increase the trees in San Francisco.

On April 19, Wiener and the Friends of the Urban Forest introduced a ballot measure to provide a permanent funding stream for city street trees, requiring the city to handle maintenance, sidewalk damage, and liability.

Funding would come from taking what the city has spent on trees in the past and adding in a new annual parcel tax of $29.50 for condo owners, $35 for most single-family homes and small apartment buildings, and more for larger commercial buildings.

“We now have a chance to correct course and create a vibrant and growing tree canopy for all residents,” Wiener said in a statement issued by his office. “City Hall has proven over and over again that it is incapable of fixing this problem. This ballot measure will allow voters to fix the problem once and for all, by creating lock-box funding and mandating that the city take back and care for all of the street trees. San Francisco should be the greenest city in America. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and fund our urban forest once and for all.”

OVERHEARD AT THE DE YOUNG

“Even the Avenues don’t have fog anymore. The avenues are the new Noe Valley.”

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