A bill that would give an estimated 2 million California renters a $500 tax credit has passed through one legislative committee and is scheduled for another hearing early next week.
Senate Bill 843 was proposed in January as a balm for a population that’s facing both sky-high rental costs and the eventual expiration of pandemic-era moratoriums. California renters––a group that represents some 45 percent of the state’s population and generally has lower incomes than homeowners––were hit disproportionately hard by the economic consequences of the pandemic.
“The California Legislature continues to work on packages to increase housing supply, yet little has been done to provide direct help to renters,” the bill’s author, state Steve Glazer, wrote in comments cited in the Legislature’s bill analysis. “While it will be years before all Californians have access to affordable homes, this bill will help millions of Californians now.”
Any policy that broadly affects renters also affects the rental market, of course, and a higher refund to low-income renters would also be good news for their landlords. It’s a population that’s also suffered throughout the pandemic––landlords and their advocates have frequently complained that government initiatives, including broad eviction moratoriums, effectively supported tenants at the expense of their landlords.
“Our members have been forced to provide housing services for free for nearly two years, and they’re hurting,” Dan Yukelson, executive director of AAGLA, a prominent L.A.-area landlord group, said earlier this year.
The state does already have a nominal tax credit for low-income renters, which was established in 1972 and only raised once, in 1979. The existing credit is capped at $60 annually for individual renters who earn less than roughly $44,000, or $120 to rental couples who file joint taxes. The existing credit is also nonrefundable — it can reduce a taxpayer’s liability but doesn’t count toward a refund, rendering it inapplicable for many of the renters it was designed to help.
Glazer’s bill would increase the credit to $500 for individual renters and $1,000 for couples and single parents. The income limits of eligible recipients would stay the same, although the credit would also become eligible as a refund and increase annually to adjust for inflation. More than two million Californians would qualify, according to statistics cited by Glazer’s office.
The bill appears to have a good chance at passing: Glazer, a Democrat from the Bay Area, introduced it in January with dozens of co-authors, including state senate minority leader Scott Wilk, of Santa Clarita, and Assemblyman Steven Choi, of Irvine.
The bill unanimously passed through the senate’s Committe on Government and Finance in late March and is set for a hearing in the Committee on Appropriations on Monday.