Governor Signs Senator Hill's TNC Access for All Act and Legislation to Increase the Property Tax Exemption for Nonprofits Providing Affordable Housing
Governor Signs Senator Jerry Hill's TNC Access for All Act and Legislation to Increase the Property Tax Exemption for Nonprofits Providing Affordable Housing
SACRAMENTO – Governor Brown signed bills by Senator Jerry Hill Saturday to increase wheelchair users’ access to transportation network company services and to help ease the property tax burden for nonprofits that privately fund and provide affordable housing.
“Senate Bill 1376, the TNC Access for All Act, ensures that Californians with disabilities have access to transportation network company services,” said Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.
“SB 1115 aids nonprofits and religious organizations that are working to address our housing crisis by privately funding and providing affordable housing,” Senator Hill said. “All too often affordable housing efforts are slowed or stymied by seemingly insurmountable financial challenges and NIMBY-ism. SB 1115 helps nonprofits that say yes to affordable housing in their communities and make their vision for affordable housing a reality.”
SB 1376: The TNC Access for All Act
“Tech innovations almost always benefit people living with disabilities or impaired mobility,” Senator Hill said. “This has been true of the TNCs, which have made progress in providing access to people who are deaf or blind and to elderly people needing extra assistance. But wheelchair users, especially people who use nonfolding motorized wheelchairs, have noted an access problem with TNC services.”
SB 1376 requires the California Public Utilities Commission to develop regulations for transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, on accessibility for people with disabilities. The bill also requires the CPUC to engage in workshops with stakeholders, levy a minimum fee of 5 cents per ride on TNCs to help pay for wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) and create a program for groups to spend that fee to advance deployment of the vehicles.
Senator Hill acknowledged the challenges posed by the access problem in a letter to the governor requesting his signature on SB 1376.
“The lack of WAVs on a TNC application is a thorny problem to solve,” Senator Hill said in the letter. “TNC services are provided by individuals using their personal vehicle and very few individuals own WAVs. Moreover, strictly mandating TNCs purchase vehicles often results in legal complications. The New York City Taxi and Limo Commission discovered this complication after being sued earlier this year following their “25% mandate”… SB 1376 does not mandate the TNCs purchase WAVs. Rather, this legislation mandates the California Public Utilities Commission develop regulations for TNC accessibility, including assessing a minimum 5¢ per ride fee on the TNCs that will go directly toward WAV service. This fee is the only obligation on the TNCs under SB 1376.”
In his letter, the senator also noted that the TNC Access for All Act provides incentives for TNCs to directly invest in wheelchair-accessible vehicles. “If a TNC makes direct investments … that improve the response times and level of service, they can reduce the amount owed to the Commission or be excluded from the fee outright.”
Nearly 30 disability rights organizations, transit agencies and associations, and cities, as well as Uber, wrote to lawmakers in support of SB 1376. There was no registered opposition.
The TNC for All Act takes effect January 1. The new law requires the CPUC to report to the Legislature by January 1, 2024, on the effectiveness of the programs, partnerships and other efforts mandated by SB 1376. The provisions of SB 1376 would be repealed on January 1, 2026, unless further legislation is passed to continue or modify them.
Easing the Property Tax Burden for Nonprofits
SB 1115 helps nonprofits and religious organizations that receive no government tax subsidies or grants and privately fundraise to create and provide affordable housing by easing the cap on the tax exemption allowed for the organizations’ affordable housing properties.
Existing law sets the cap for the tax exemption at $10 million in assessed value for such organizations’ affordable housing properties. Starting January 1, SB 1115 would raise the cap on the property tax exemption to $20 million in assessed value. Organizations covered by the bill would pay property tax only if the assessed value of their affordable housing holdings exceeds $20 million.
In a letter requesting the governor’s signature on SB 1115, Senator Hill noted that California is home to four of the nation’s five least affordable rental markets, which creates greater challenges to efforts to provide affordable housing while exacerbating the need for it.
Senator Hill noted that only 75 properties in California owned by 26 nonprofits are subject to the tax exemption cap. Of them, he said, only two appear to have affordable housing properties whose assessed value exceeds the current cap: The St. Francis Center in Redwood City and the AIDS Health Foundation, which has affordable housing properties in Los Angeles and is the largest provider of services to people living with HIV/AIDS in California. Both nonprofits have worked for decades to provide affordable housing and services in two of the state’s tightest and most expensive markets.
“These organizations have committed to reinvesting any property tax savings back into their missions of providing more affordable housing and other services to extremely needy individuals and families,” Senator Hill said in his letter to the governor.
The Legislature passed SB 1115 with unanimous, bipartisan votes in both houses. In addition to the two nonprofits, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the county’s tax assessor, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the Irvine Land Trust, and the California Housing Partnership voiced support for the bill. There was no opposition.