Category Archives: California

Yet Another Unfunded Trillion Dollar Liability, California Wildfire Damage

( John Rubio-DollarCollapse) Yesterday an entire California town burned down. Paridise, CA has (had) 27,000 residents and over 1,000 buildings, and now it’s pretty much gone. A fire started nearby on a windy day and within hours everything was ash and cinders.

That fire and several others are still expanding across the state, threatening tens of thousands of homes. The sets of the TV show WestWorld are gone. Malibu has been evacuated. And dry, windy conditions persist, so the story is nowhere near over.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because massive, sometimes uncontrollable California wildfires are now an annual occurrence, due in part to gradual warming and persistent drought which combine to suck the moisture out of vegetation and turn the landscape into a tinderbox. Here’s a chart showing the recent take-off in the number of fires reported in the state (2013 was most recent year I could find, but the trend is clear – and since then the number of fires has apparently soared).

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The reason this rates coverage in a financial blog is population. We’ve been moving millions of people into a place that has always had and always will have wildfires. California’s population is now about four times what it was in 1950, and the influx continues.

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Fire is a crucial part of that and many other ecosystems, clearing out dead plants to make room for living. But add 40 million humans along with their buildings and vehicles, and a healthy, resilient semi-desert becomes a hellscape.

A very expensive hellscape. What does it cost to rebuild a town of 27,000 people from scratch? A back-of-the-envelope calculation (1,000 buildings at $100,000 a pop, 15,000 cars at $25,000 per, $10,000 per person for roads, sewers, landscaping, etc) yields several hundred million dollars. For one little town.

Is California budgeting for this? Are the insurance companies? Is Washington? All probably say they are, but only the insurance companies actually are – and even they are probably under-reserved for the past few years’ natural disasters.

This is a massive public planning failure, and yet another unfunded liability – that is, a future cost incurred but not saved for – to go alongside public pensions, government debt and multiplying environmental time bombs.

The result: A future of unpleasant surprises, in which governments are constantly saying “Oops, there’s this huge new expense that no one could have foreseen, and we’re all going to have to tighten our belts to cover it, sorry about the bad roads and closed libraries” – or – “Oops, there’s a huge unforeseen expense and we’re going to have to create a trillion new dollars to cover it, sorry about the inflation.”

But isn’t this mostly a private sector issue, between homeowner and insurance company, you ask? In many cases that’s true. But insurance companies have to make a profit, which means homeowner policy premiums have to be high enough to cover expected losses. As the latter rise, so necessarily do the former. Which means the part of our cost of living that’s devoted to insurance will soar as a direct result of California’s asleep-at-the-switch population management policy.

Are California wildfires as big an unfunded liability as the one resulting from the Right Coast’s soaring Hurricane Alley population? Probably not, because fires, even big ones, are smaller than tropical storms. Still, it could easily exceed a trillion dollars (let’s see what today’s fires end up costing) which – hitting a state that’s already overburdened with unfunded pensions and crumbling infrastructure – will probably end up being added to the federal government’s balance sheet via some kind of bail-out.

All of which makes a currency reset that much more likely in the not too distant future. Paying off this mountain of debts, promises and “guaranteed surprises” with current dollars is mathematically impossible. But after a 70% devaluation the numbers might work.

Source: ZeroHedge

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SoCal Fire May Have Ejected “Incredibly Dangerous” Radioactive Particles Into The Atmosphere

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Nearby resident: “Every person on our street has had cancer

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California Utilities Implode, Lose A Third Of Their Value In 2 Days On Massive Fire Damages

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With the two giant wildfires in northern and southern California projected to result in $25 billion in damages, the shares of California’s two largest utility owners have crashed the most in nearly two decades.

 

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California Wildfires Set For $25 Billion In Damages As Death Toll Hits 31; Suspected Looters Arrested

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California Wildfires: Cars Filled with Dead Bodies – Burnt Skeletons

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Fire Swept Through Santa Susana Nuclear Testing Site In California

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SF Bay Area Realtor Caters To Mass Exodus Out Of The Region

A real estate brokerage near San Francisco is capitalizing on the mass exodus out of the Bay Area. 

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According to an April report by a Bay Area advocacy group, 46% of locals say they want to move out of the area within the next few years, citing the high cost of living and skyrocketing housing prices as main reasons for wanting out. In February, CBS San Francisco reported that the number of people packing up and leaving the Bay Area has reached its highest level in more than a decade. And fo the first time in ages, the number of people leaving are outnumbering the people coming in.

Meanwhile, a statewide poll conducted by UC Berkeley last year revealed that 56 percent of voters have considered moving due to the housing crisis – and 1 in 4 of those residents said they’d leave the state.

Some are already making good on that promiseData from earlier this year confirms that Sacramento is experiencing its highest rate of domestic migration in over a decade.

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Catering to the exodus

To serve the real estate needs of soon-to-be former Bay Area residents, East-Bay broker Scott Fuller – a real estate broker of 18 years, launched LeavingTheBayArea.com, which helps clients design a relocation strategy. After helping clients sell their home “within a timeframe that works for you,” Fuller will “partner you up with a real estate specialist” in the desired destination city in order to perform an “in-depth needs analysis” in order to coordinate the move.

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Fuller says that the majority of his clientele are retirees looking to cash out and move to cheaper pastures in areas such as Portland, Las Vegas, Reno, Dallas, Austin and cities in Arizona. Those looking to remain in California have been moving to Folsom and El Dorado Hills.

Source: ZeroHedge

California Democrat Congressional Candidate Caught Listing Maryland Home As Primary Residence

It wasn’t a case of flagrant carpetbagging – it was just an honest mistake!

That’s the excuse that one Democratic Congressional candidate in California has offered to justify the fact that he claimed a home in Bethesda Maryland as his primary residence, as the Fresno Bee reported on Tuesday.

Spokesmen for the campaign of TJ Cox – the candidate in question – said last week that the claim was the result of an “honest mistake” and blamed an error by the state for the “oversight.” Cox has offered to repay a roughly $700 tax credit that he received by claiming the home.

Cox owns several businesses in the central San Joaquin Valley and is running against Republican Rep. David Valadao for California’s 21st Congressional District seat.

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The Bee had previously reported that Cox owned a three-bedroom, four-bathroom house in Bethesda and had claimed the nearly $1 million home as his principal residence. Cox also claimed a Fresno home as his principal residence, however, federal tax laws prohibit claiming more than one home.

Asked why Cox didn’t notice the oversight, his campaign spokesperson said that Cox’s family was living there.

“It was an honest mistake that he filled out the principal residence not knowing the legal definitions. His family was living there,” said Campaign Spokesman Phillip Vander Klay.

“That’s just kind of the situation,” Vander Klay added. “We are working to get this fixed.”

Cox had reportedly purchased the Bethesda home for his family to live in while his wife, Dr. Kathleen Murphy, studied public health policy at Johns Hopkins University. Cox lived and worked in Fresno while his family lived in Maryland.

Though Cox’s campaign tried to construe the tax credit claim as a mistake on the state of Maryland’s part, the Fresno Bee found that it had been coded as Cox’s principal residence when he first bought the home – meaning that the credit claim was an oversight on Cox’s part.

But we’re sure that Cox’s inability to keep track of basic tax-related upkeep will have no bearing on his ability to properly allocate how the tax dollars of his constituents are spent.

Source: ZeroHedge

California Tops National Poverty Rate As Prime Tax Donkey Demographic Plans “Exodus” From State

Despite efforts by state legislators at creating a socialist utopia, California still has the highest poverty rate in the nation at 19%, despite a 1.4% decrease from last year according to the Census Bureau. 

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Poverty and income figures released Wednesday reveal that over 7 million Californians are struggling to get by in the second most expensive state to live in, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research‘s 2017 Annual Cost of Living Index. 

And while California has a “vigorous economy and a number of safety net programs to aid needy residents,” according to the Sacramento Bee, one out of every five residents is suffering economic hardship – which is fueled in large part by sky-high housing costs, according to Caroline Danielson, policy director at the Public Policy Institute of California. 

“We do have a housing crisis in many parts of the state and our poverty rate is highest in Los Angeles County,” she said, adding that cost of living and poverty is often highest in the state’s coastal counties. “When you factor that in we struggle.”

Silicon Valley residents in particular are leaving in droves – more so than any other part of the state. Nearby San Mateo County which is home to Facebook came in Second, while Los Angeles County came in third.

They’re looking for affordability and not finding it in Santa Clara County,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com.

It’s not just housing prices driving the exodus, of course. Punitive taxes – more than twice as much as some other states, are eating away at disposable income. Nearby Arizona’s income tax rate is 4.54% vs. California’s 9.3%, while the new tax bill may accelerate the exodus.

As Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse Blog pointed out in May…

Reasons for the mass exodus include rising crime, the worst traffic in the western world, a growing homelessness epidemic, wildfires, earthquakes and crazy politicians that do some of the stupidest things imaginable.  But for most families, the decision to leave California comes down to one basic factor…

Money.

Mass Exodus

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As you may or may not be aware, we’ve mentioned the flood of various types of Californians fleeing the state for various reasons; be it wealthy families who want to keep more of their income safe from the tax man, or poor residents leaving the Golden State because they are being crushed by the high cost of living. 

To that end, the Orange County Register notes a significant out migration of people in their child-raising years – as the largest group leaving the state, some 28%, are those aged 35 to 44. 

According to IRS data from 2015-2016, the latest available, roughly half of those leaving the state make less than $50,000 per year, while roughly 25% of those leaving make over $100,000. 

What did the OC register conclude?

Thanks to unaffordable housing, California’s moderate wage earners are going to have to leave the state, while only the wealthy and the impoverished residents will remain. 

But the big enchilada in California — by far the largest source of distortion in living costs — is housing. Over 90 percent of the difference in costs between California’s coastal metropolises and the country derives from housing. Coastal California is affordable for roughly 15 percent of residents, down from 30 percent in 2000 and 30 percent in the interior, from nearly 60 percent in 2000. In the country as a whole, affordability hovers at roughly 60 percent.

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Over time these factors — along with prospects of reduced immigration — will impact severely the state’s future. California is already seeing its population aged 6 to 17 decline. This reflects a continued drop in fertility in comparison to less regulated, and less costly, states such as Utah, Texas and Tennessee. These areas are generally those experiencing the biggest surge in millennial populations. –OC Register

And according to ULI, 74% of California millennials are considering an exodus

Where to? 

As we noted in June, these are the top 10 California counties that people are leaving, and where they’re headed (via the Mercury News): 

1. Santa Clara County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Idaho

In state destinations: Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz and Placer counties

2. San Mateo County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Washington

In state destinations: Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, and San Francisco counties

3. Los Angeles County

Out of state destinations: Nevada, Arizona, and Idaho

In state destinations: San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Kern counties

4. Napa County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Florida and Oregon

In state destinations: Solano, Sonoma, Sacramento, Lake and El Dorado counties

5. Monterey County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho

In state destinations: San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and San Diego counties

6. Alameda County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Hawaii.

In state destinations: Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado counties

7. Marin County

Out of state destinations: Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Idaho.

In state destinations: Sonoma, Contra Costa, Solano and San Francisco counties

8. Orange County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada and Idaho

In state destinations: Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo

9. Santa Barbara County

Out of state destinations: Arizona, Nevada and Idaho.

In state destinations: San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside and Kern counties

10. San Diego County

Out of state destinations: Arizona and Nevada

In state destinations: Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Orange County and Los Angeles

Source: ZeroHedge

Crisis Level: California’s Housing Affordability Plummets To 10-Year Low

California’s housing affordability crisis is progressively getting worse. It has now plummeted to its lowest level in 10-years, and less than one in five households can afford to purchase a median-priced single-family home in the Bay Area, according to new data released by the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

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CAR released its second-quarter Housing Affordability Index report (HAI), based on the percentage of all households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in the state. CAR also reports affordability indices for regions and counties within the state. The index is regarded as the most fundamental benchmark of housing well-being for home buyers.

The percentage of home buyers who could afford to buy a median-priced, existing single-family home in the state declined from 31 percent in the first quarter to 26 in the second quarter; in the previous year, the index was at 29 percent, according to CAR’s HAI.

The second quarter marked the 21st consecutive quarter that CAR’s HAI printed below 40 percent; the index topped at 56 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

The report showed that prospective home buyers would need to have minimum annual income of $126,500 to prequalify for the purchase of a $596,730 statewide median-priced, existing single-family home in the second quarter. Assuming a 20 percent down payment and an effective composite interest rate of 4.70 percent, the monthly payments of a 30-year fixed-rate loan would be around $3,160.

The California counties that recorded 10-year lows in housing affordability were Alameda, Merced, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma.

Here are the areas where housing affordability is at crisis levels: Santa Cruz (12 percent), San Francisco, San Mateo, and Mono (all at 14 percent), and Alameda and Santa Clara (both at 16 percent).

According to CAR’s index, the most affordable counties in California during the second quarter were Lassen (64 percent), Kern (53 percent), Madera (52 percent), Tehama (51 percent) and Kings (50 percent).

Housing Affordability Peaked At 1Q 2012 

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Housing Affordability — Traditional Index 

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Affordability Peak vs. Current 

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In a separate, but relevant report from CAR, data shows California’s real estate market could have already peaked.

California Home Sales Declined for the 1 st Time in 4 Months

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Sales Lost Momentum as Mortgage Rates Continued to Climb

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California is one of the largest housing markets in the nation, as it has been a forward leading indicator for the rest of the country. Amid a housing shortage, which has blossomed into a housing affordability crisis, sales this summer have started to tumble, even as more inventory comes online. The supply of homes for sale increased annually in June for the first time in three years, according to the National Association of Realtors, which has depressed sales for the third straight month.

And now it seems, California’s real estate market could be in the beginning stages of a correction to fair value, after nearly a decade of speculation forced much of the median-priced single-family homes out of reach of the middle class – contributing to the housing affordability index at a 10-year low.

Source: ZeroHedge

 

California Gained Just 800 Jobs In June; Unemployment Remains At Record Low

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Employers in California’s trade, transportation and utilities sector cut jobs in June. Above, the Port of Long Beach.

California’s economic engine paused in June, as employers added a meager 800 new jobs. The unemployment rate held steady at a record low of 4.2%, according to data released Friday by the state’s Employment Development Department.

The June numbers represent a pullback from May, when the Golden State added 7,200 jobs. And the gains in May were much smaller than April, when employers boosted payrolls by nearly 26,000.

The slowdown could signal that California is simply reaching full employment. Employers are struggling to find workers. Or it could be a sign of sagging confidence among executives. A growing trade war with China, for example, has unnerved companies in California’s logistics industry and beyond.

Economists, however, cautioned against reading too much into one or two months of data.

Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Fermanian Business and Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, said June’s disappointing figures “warrant attention” and could be a sign of uncertainty around trade. But they are not cause for “undue alarm at this point.”

“June’s weak performance could be temporary,” she said in an email.

Others said it was too early to see effects from the tariffs the Trump administration has placed on Chinese goods. An initial levy on $34 billion of Chinese goods, along with countermeasures by China, took effect in July following months of tariff threats and saber-rattling between the world’s two largest economies. More tariffs have been threatened.

Michael Bernick, an attorney with Duane Morris and a former director of the Employment Development Department, said the slowdown was expected after a sustained stretch of job growth, noting that the current economic expansion is now the second longest in the post-World War II period.

“California has a broad and diverse economy, and we’re now in our 99th month of employment expansion,” he said in an email.

Last month, employers in four of California’s 11 industry sectors added jobs.

The education and health services sector gained the most, growing by 8,000 jobs. The information sector, which includes tech companies and Hollywood studios, grew by 4,600 jobs.

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Employers in the government sector and the professional and business services sector also added jobs.

The other seven sectors saw job losses. Leisure and hospitality cut 4,000 jobs. The construction sector shrank by 2,900. Trade, transportation and utilities lost 2,600 jobs. Employers in manufacturing, finance, mining and logging and “other services” also trimmed payrolls.

Wages, meanwhile, rose 2.6% in California from the previous year, to $30.42 an hour, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, barely keeping up with the national increase in consumer prices. (The agency does not publish consumer inflation data for individual states.)

The number of jobs in Los Angeles County rose by 8,800. Employers in San Bernardino and Riverside counties added 3,400 jobs, while San Diego County employers cut 5,400. The number of jobs in Ventura County fell by 300. Orange County lost 100 jobs.

Across Los Angeles and Orange counties, wages rose 4.8%, to $29.39 an hour, though inflation took out a chunk of those gains.

So-called core inflation — consumer prices minus volatile food and energy costs — rose 3.5% in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Sung Won Sohn, chief economist with Los Angeles consulting firm SS Economics, blamed June’s poor jobs figures partly on sky-high housing costs that make it difficult for employers to recruit and retain workers.

He noted that the number of people in the labor force — either those employed or looking for work — has been falling in recent months.

Dave Smith, an economist at the Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School, said that absent an increase in immigration, “we are just not at a capacity to add a lot more jobs.”

Bernick and others said that the economy appears mostly healthy despite the poor June numbers. But Bernick said federal trade policy could hamper further job growth.

“A widening trade war is the main threat to California’s continued employment expansion,” he said.

Source: by Andrew Khouri | Los Angeles Times

If California Is Split Into 3, What New State Will Have The Hottest Housing?

https://www.mercurynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/0715-BUS-SPLIT-CA-01.jpg?w=842In this June 18, 2018, photo, venture capitalist Tim Draper points to a computer screen at his offices in San Mateo, showing an initiative to split California into three states qualified for the ballot. Opponents of an initiative are asking the state Supreme Court to pull the measure from the ballot. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

Voters will decide in November on a proposition that calls for California to be split into three new and separate states.

This column isn’t the place to debate the merits of the idea. Nor will I ponder its odds at the ballot box. And I’ll leave to other pundits the vast legal, political and operational impacts of such a historic change — and that’s only if the breakup ever got all the necessary approvals after a winning vote.

We are here to talk one thing: What might these three new state housing markets look like based on historical trends. Geographically speaking, the plan creates new state borders along county lines.

There’s the retooled “California,” essentially the coastal counties from Los Angeles to Monterey. There’s the oddly named “Southern California” combining Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties up through the interior to Lake Tahoe. And there’s “Northern California,” everything else or basically the Bay Area plus everything up to Oregon.

Knowing the new county lineup, I filled my trusty spreadsheet with historical housing data provided by Attom Data Solutions. Looking at stats from 2000 through 2018’s first quarter, here are 10 things you should know about the housing markets within each of the new proposed states.

1. Price tags: When you shuffle the counties into three states, what does a sales-weighted median for 2018’s first-quarter selling prices for all properties look like? It’s no surprise that it would cost the most to buy in Northern California at $580,200. Next was the new coastal California at $571,900. Southern California was most affordable — remember all the cheaper inland properties are in this new state — at $426,000.

2. Best bet: Where was the best performance this century, as measured by growth in median selling prices for all properties, 2000 through this year? Well, seaside property rocks. The Pacific-hugging new California’s 181 percent gain was tops vs. Southern California at 148 percent and Northern California’s 120 percent.

3. Most pain: Split or not, don’t forget the pain of housing’s bubble bursting! What new state’s housing market would have fared the worst in the 2006-2011 downturn? Northern California’s 46 percent price drop was the largest loss and a shade ahead of Southern California’s fall of 45.6 percent and new California’s 41.4 percent tumble.

4. Top recovery: Where was the post-recession rebound the best, measured by the 2011-2018 selling price upswing? Northern California produced 108 percent in gains in seven years vs. Southern California at 84 percent and new California’s 83 percent.

5. Predictability: Split the state into three, expect the same crazy real estate. Just peek at the nearly uniform best and worst 12-month periods since 2000! New California’s best was up 30 percent vs. its worst of down 35 percent; Southern California ran from up 29 percent to down 37 percent; and Northern California ranged from up 29 percent to down 42 percent.

6. Big sellers: Ponder the size of these markets, in terms of purchase transactions closed in the past 18 years. Most sales activity in 2000-2018 was Southern California’s 3.2 million sales followed by Northern California’s 2.9 million and new California’s 2 million.

7. Sales dips: Home buying is down since the turn of the century as homeowners choose to move less and ownership is less affordable. New California’s sales pace is down 19 percent since 2000; Northern California is off 10 percent; Southern California is down 4.5 percent.

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8. Home sweet home: Now let’s think about single-family homes under the proposed three-way split. Southern California would have 2.77 million single-family homes worth a combined $1.44 trillion. New California gets 1.84 million single-family homes worth $1.41 trillion. Northern California is home to 2.87 million homes worth $2.18 trillion.

9. Price extremes: Where’s the budget-busting housing in the proposed new states  … and where are the bargains? Southern California’s priciest single-family homes are in Orange County at an average value of $871,635 vs. the cheapest county, Kings, at $202,699. New California’s priciest is Santa Barbara County at $804,942 vs. San Benito County’s $541,434 low. Of course, Northern California has an insane gap: the highest prices are in San Mateo County at $1.61 million vs. the cheapest county, Modoc, at $89,158.

10. Tax bite: Ownership equals property taxes. How would that cost for single-family homes slice up among the three proposed states? Southern California’s 2017 tax collections for single-family homes ran $12.13 billion or $4,372 per average taxpayer. Northern California property taxes totaled $15.53 billion or $5,419 per average taxpayer. And the biggest individual tax bills were in the new California where $10.38 billion in collections translates to an average $5,636 per property.

Source: by Johnathan Lansner | Mercury News