Mar. 28: Tax breaks for older home owners; reversible concrete as a building material?

Rob Chrisman

Rob Chrisman began his career in mortgage banking – primarily capital markets – 31 years ago in 1985 with First California Mortgage, assisting in Secondary Marketing until 1988, when he joined Tuttle & Co., a leading mortgage pipeline risk management firm. He was an account manager and partner at Tuttle & Co. until 1996, when he moved to Scotland with his family for 9 months. See more

Trends in Taxes for Older Home Owners


Tax Break for over 55:


In the late 1980s, California voters approved a pair of propositions (60 & 90) that give homeowners older than 55 a property tax break when they sell their primary residence and buy a replacement one that costs the same or less. It was intended to help empty nesters downsize without facing a property tax increase.


A bill sponsored by the California Association of Realtors would have extended that break, with a modification, to seniors buying a more expensive home. The bill, by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee 7-0, but failed to make it out of the Appropriations Committee.


Under Proposition 60, homeowners who are older than 55 or permanently disabled can sell their primary residence and transfer its assessed value to a replacement home in the same county of equal or lesser value.


Proposition 90 allows them transfer their assessed value to a replacement home of equal or lesser value in a different county, but only if that county accepts incoming transfers, only 10 counties currently accept transfers.


There are a couple of exceptions as well. Seniors who sell their home before buying a replacement can spend up to 5 percent more on the new home if they buy it within a year, or up to 10 percent more if they buy within two years. Once you have used this transfer, neither you nor your spouse can get it again, unless one of you becomes disabled, in which case you can transfer again because of the disability.


Last year, 4,402 California homeowners filed Prop. 60 claims and 2,207 filed Prop. 90 claims, according to the state Board of Equalization.


One example reasoning for those in favor of the bill was that proposed change would create an opportunity allowing empty-nesters to sell their big homes which would increase the supply of existing single-family homes available to young families.


An argument raised by the opposition to the bill believe the current system works as it was designed. People on fixed incomes who don’t want to incur more tax or debt could move into a less expensive home. Expanding it to cover seniors buying more expensive homes would defeat the purpose of downsizing and spending less.


The association says it will reintroduce the measure in the Assembly.


Turn me inside out…


Reversible concrete, yes it is apparently a real thing. Last October at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Self-Assembly Lab at MIT and Gramazio Kohler Research of ETH Zurich showed off a process that might finally one-up concrete, using only a 3-D printing extruder, rocks, string, and smart design. The short, unscientific version is that the rocks are bound together by the string into whatever shape is required. Dismantling is easy – just pull the string out.


By jamming rocks together with algorithmically placed string, the team created an aesthetically pleasing 13-foot-tall column for the show. “We are using a similar technique to powder-based printing,” Skylar Tibbits explains to The Creators Project. “There is a container, material is deposited layer by layer and a binder, (in this case the string), is applied to each layer in the specific pattern of the slice.”


“The ability to digitally fabricate, disassemble, and reassemble structures with no material losses changes the paradigm of architecture as well as the view of permanent / temporary architecture,” says installation project lead Andreas Thoma of Gramazio Kohler Research.

The idea started in 2012, when Chicago University professor Dr. Heinrich Jaeger hosted a meeting of great minds from the fields of architecture, physics, and the material sciences to see how they might practically employ the “jamming phenomenon,” which is what happens on a physical level when you cram a bunch of stuff into one spot. The result is “a step towards an alternative to concrete,” says Thoma.


One can only imagine the future uses for this type of material: buildings that can change shape based on occupancy needs, true “living structures;” roads and highways that heal themselves; and who knows what they will think of next. Frankly, I don’t know whether to be intrigued or frightened!



An elderly couple is both having problems remembering things.

During a checkup, the doctor tells them that they’re physically okay, but they might want to start writing things down to help them remember.

Later that night, while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair. “Want anything while I’m in the kitchen?” he asks.

“Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?”


“Don’t you think you should write it down so you can remember it?’ she asks.

“No, I can remember it.”

“Well, I’d like some strawberries on top, too. Maybe you should write it down, so as not to forget it?”

He says, “I can remember that. You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.”

“I’d also like whipped cream. I’m certain you’ll forget that, write it down?” she says.

Irritated, he says, “I don’t need to write it down, I can remember it! Ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream – I got it, for goodness sake!”

Then he toddles into the kitchen. After about 20 minutes, he returns from the kitchen and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs.

She stares at the plate for a moment and says, “Where’s my toast?”




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