State Controller Betty T. Yee and Thomas Briody -president and CEO of the Institute on Aging. Photo by Anna M. Clausen

After seven years of hibernation the state of California is bringing back a program that will allow low-income seniors and disabled people to defer their property tax payments.

“This is possible because the state is experiencing a state of fiscal stability and has the ability to fund programs like this to help some of the more vulnerable Californians,” said State Controller Betty T. Yee at the announcement earlier this week. “We know the need is great here.”

It is unclear how many households in the Mission will be affected. Some 17 percent of the households here include seniors compared to 24 percent for San Francisco, according to the American Community Survey of 2013.

The $20 million dollars set aside for the program, which will be run by the State Controller’s office, will allow residents who are at least 62 and own at least a 40 percent share of their home to delay making property tax payments until “the homeowner moves or sells the the property, transfers title, defaults on a senior lien, refinances, obtains a reverse mortgage or passes away,” according to a press release.

Some 10 percent of California’s seniors live below the poverty line – the highest rate in the nation, according to a 2015 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. In San Francisco, some 16 percent of the city’s seniors live below the poverty rate, Thomas Briody, president and CEO of the Institute on Aging, said at Thursday’s press conference.

“Most older people want to age at home, in the community; they don’t want to go to institutions,” Briody said later. This program would free up some money for strapped seniors.

When the 15-year-old program was suspended in 2009 due to lack of funding, it had an average of 8,000 applications per year, “a very small number compared to the need,” Yee said. She did not know the size of the potential applicant pool.

“We do know that the 20 million or so that the legislature provided is not gonna be enough to cover the entire need of the state,” Yee said. “We are continuing to work with the administration to increase that level of funding.”

To qualify, applicants must have an annual household income of $35,500 or less. It is also open to blind and disabled residents.

Applications are already available here and can be filed from October 1st by mail to the California State Controller’s Office. Chu hopes that people who are struggling will reach out to the State Controller’s office early, as funding will be distributed on a first come, first served basis.

“We know that people on fixed incomes might not be able to make these payments,” she said. “We want people to be able to keep the homes that they worked so hard for so hopefully people will take advantage of the program and apply early.”

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