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Toni Atkins Backs $75 Fee To Expand Affordable Housing

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is seen in an undated photo.
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is seen in an undated photo.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced a proposal Wednesday to expand affordable housing in California by charging a $75 fee to record real estate documents.

The San Diego Democrat's plan would send cities hundreds of millions of dollars for development benefiting poor and middle-class Californians. Local governments lost a key funding source for affordable housing when Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies in 2011.

About 36 percent of homeowners and nearly half of renters spend more than a third of their income on housing, a Public Policy Institute of California report released this month said.


"We have a housing crisis in California, and it's time we offered some bold suggestions and solutions," Atkins said in a news conference in front of a Los Angeles housing development.

Like earlier legislation, Atkins' proposal adds a $75 fee onto deeds and other real estate transaction documents recorded when businesses buy property and residents refinance their homes. Home buyers would not be charged.

The fee could raise between $300 million to $720 million a year, according to a 2013 state estimate.

Republicans have voted against similar proposals, and Democrats need their support in order to meet the Legislature's two-thirds threshold to impose fees. Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen said in a statement she would prefer policies that make building homes easier and cheaper.

Real estate agents successfully opposed legislation, including recording fees, in 2013. Alex Creel, a lobbyist for California Association of Realtors, said funding for affordable housing should come from a broader source than people recording real estate documents.


Atkins also wants to add $300 million in tax credits for developers who offer low-income housing.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the lack of affordable housing is undermining the quality of life in California. He said it's harder for cities to offer housing because of declining federal funding, increased demand from the recession, and the loss of redevelopment agencies that collected about $1 billion for affordable housing before they were shuttered. "All local governments feel the squeeze," Garcetti said.

Atkins has said affordable housing is a top personal priority, reflecting her modest upbringing in Appalachia. Her wife is a consultant to businesses and nonprofits on development issues, including affordable housing.