Realtors spending big bucks to thwart housing tax measures in Hayward, Oakland, Berkeley

The National Association of Realtors are  spending nearly $150,000 in mailers, door hangers and field work to defeat Hayward’s Measure T, a ballot initiative that would modestly boost the city’s Real Property Transfer tax from 4.5 percent per $1,000 of property value to 8.5 percent. The same group is also spending heavily to stop three tax measures related to real estate in Oakland and Berkeley.

Many Hayward voters are already fully aware of the effort. At least five mailers and door hangers have been sent over the past two weeks in order to defeat the measure.

“Hayward voters aren’t accustomed to being deluged with mailers and other advertising by out-of-town interests trying to influence our local elections,” said Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo. “We think it is important for voters to know who is behind the activity.”

One door hanger, for example, suggests an increase in the Real Property Transfer Tax threatens the ability for some in the future to enjoy the benefits of homeownership, worsens the housing crisis and warns, “Don’t let City Hall cash in on the housing crisis.”  McAdoo said the National Association of Realtors’ argument is stated “falsely, irresponsibly and hypocritically.”

The transfer tax is only paid only when a property is sold. The tax is typically split between buyer and seller. Hayward’s current 4.5 percent per $1,000 of property value is currently the lowest in Alameda County. Oakland and Berkeley, for instance, levy a 15 percent transfer tax. The city estimates, if approved, proceeds from the measure will add an additional $6-8 million in annual revenue to the city’s already strapped general fund.

The expenditure from outside special interests is unprecedented, McAdoo added. The IE in support of Measure T could be facing daunted prospects for fending off the seemingly unlimited coffers of Realtors. Through the most recent campaign finance reporting period, ending Sept. 22, the group in support of Measure T had just under $14,000 in cash on hand. Its largest donor being a $10,000 contribution from Friends of the Hayward Public Library.

But Hayward isn’t the only Bay Area city being targeted by the National Association of Realtors. The same group has poured large amounts of cash into efforts to defeat measures in Oakland and Berkeley, that Realtors deem against their collective interests.

A day before adding another $21,000 the effort to defeat Hayward’s Measure T, the Realtors group contributed $100,000 to Homeowners for Fair Treatment, a group that opposes Oakland’s Measure W, a vacancy parcel tax on units sitting unused for more than 50 days, and Measure Y, which would remove just cause exemptions for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes.

The same IE also contributed $63,250 to the Committee for Affordable Housing and Accountability on Oct. 5 to help oppose Berkeley’s Measure P, a proposed increase in the city’s Real Property Transfer Tax on property sales over $1.5 million over 10 years.

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