Homeowners and prospective buyers in the Santa Clarita Valley attended the Assessor’s Homeowners’ Resource Fair led by Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang on Saturday at the Canyon Country Community Center.
Attendees learned from expert speakers about topics such as new construction and assessments, Proposition 19, property tax savings programs, death of a property owner, and misfortune and calamity/fire safety.
“What we’re doing here is we have a collaborative effort with all county departments. We have private businesses, we have Supervisor (Kathryn) Barger, we have elected officials here to show the people exactly what’s available to them at no cost,” said Steve Whitmore, public information officer at the L.A. County Office of the Assessor. “Today, a lot of the things we’re going to be talking about are how they can save money on their property taxes.”
According to Whitmore, Prang, who was elected in 2014, believes in taking the county to the people, rather than having the people come to the county. To make this initiative plausible, the fair is held four times a year, once every season.
“I think the important thing is to realize this is that there are savings if you own a home, there are savings available to you,” Whitmore said. “[People] are coming to get certain things solved, and that certainly happens here. They come with an open mind.”
The speakers included Assessor Jeff Prang, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Chairman Antonio Vazquez of the state Board of Equalization, and Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth.
Prang began his remarks to the crowd of hundreds by clarifying what it is he and his team do not do.
“We have brought together a tremendous amount of resources to help you answer virtually any question you might have about things dealing with property ownership in Los Angeles County,” Prang said. “I’m going to start by telling you something about our office that we do not do. We are not the people who collect taxes. The United States [does not] have a position of a tax assessor. We’re real estate appraisers.”
Prang continued to clarify to anyone still confused in the audience that the person who collects taxes is called a tax collector.
“However, we are responsible for managing a whole bunch of programs to help you save money on your property taxes — programs for veterans, seniors, disabled, for religious institutions, for nonprofits,” Prang said.
Those who owned a home in the audience — nearly the whole room raised their hands when asked by Schiavo later on — learned about the homeowner’s exemption from Prang.
“Anybody who owns a home, and lives there, qualifies for something called the Homeowner’s Exemption. It’s a tax savings program that doesn’t save you a lot, but it will allow us to reduce your assessed value by $7,000, which will save you about 70 bucks on your property taxes,” Prang said. “And I mention this because in L.A. County, about one in three homeowners who qualify for homeowners exemption, don’t apply. And they don’t apply simply because they don’t know about it.”
Barger hoped those in attendance would benefit from the information provided during the fair, but in also taking the steps to be prepared for natural disasters — especially for the infamous wildfire season.
“As your county supervisor, I want to make sure that you benefit from every resource available to you, which includes having the information you need to navigate homeownership property transfers, understanding changes in state and county laws and protecting against natural disasters, something up here in Santa Clarita we know all too well,” Barger said. “The many wildfires that you’ve lived through have impacted this area, and we have a team of experts to respond and help you recover.”
Schiavo shared an anecdote about buying her first home and utilizing the resources provided, while empathizing with the crowd about recent inflation.
“For me personally, I was only able to get into my first home because I had a down payment assistance. I had something that lowered my interest rate and made it all more affordable for me. It would have been out of reach for me,” Schiavo said. “I know that home ownership is out of reach for a lot of people and continuing to be able to afford your home along with the other cost of living that is really hurting people right now and is more and more difficult every year.”
Schiavo said that although Santa Clarita’s market is no longer as affordable, especially for families who moved for the schools and raised children who can now no longer live in the same communities on their own, there is a strong incentive to assist.
“There are still opportunities for people to get that support and those services — the Dream for All Program has just reopened. It’s a lottery to help first-time homebuyers, and we’ll cover up to $150,000 or for a purchase price of $150,000 and 20% of that down payment.
Knowing that a home in Santa Clarita would not be purchased for that amount alone, the program is geared to reduce a significant chunk of a down payment to purchase a home.
“At the state level, we are really focused on this issue, that housing crisis is a huge, huge focus, and also the issues of just helping folks be able to make ends meet and pay the bills,” Schiavo said.