Merced supervisors waffle on supporting state Senate bill on real estate fee

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMay 27, 2013 

— The Merced County Board of Supervisors remained undecided Tuesday on a state Senate bill that proposes adding a $75 recording fee to certain real estate filings, which would go into a state trust fund for affordable housing programs.

On Tuesday, the board considered signing a letter supporting the bill, but decided to withdraw the item after they were unable to reach a unanimous decision.

Those county supervisors supporting the bill could draft individual letters, said District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors. Kelsey was the only supervisor on the five-member board who voiced support for the bill.

Supporters of Senate Bill 391, the California Homes and Jobs Act of 2013, say it will help provide resources for affordable housing projects in Merced and other counties.

"It's something we really need to have in the county," Kelsey said. "It would provide a supply of lower-income housing."

But Supervisor Linn Davis said the bill leaves too many unanswered questions, and it's unclear if the county would receive its fair share of funding.

"I'm against supporting programs where you don't know what the rules are," Davis said during Tuesday's meeting. "If we'll get the short end of the stick, why should we support it? I cannot support it the way it stands."

Supervisor John Pedrozo said he originally supported the bill, but is also apprehensive of bigger counties getting the funding before it comes to the valley counties.

The Merced County Recorder's Office has opposed the bill, saying the extra fee can be a burden to residents, especially those handling difficult transactions such as foreclosure, refinancing or taking someone's name off a title because of a death.

A typical refinance, which requires four documents, would cost residents an additional $300, said Barbara Levey, Merced County recorder.

Supervisor Hub Walsh compared the bill to Assembly Bill 109, the state's prison realignment law, where he said Merced County did not get the funding it deserves.

"I'm fearful that we'll get the bill, but we won't get the profit from it," he said.

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