Declining property values tied to SGMA

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A recent report on the outlook for Kern County agricultural land indicates that new state water regulations will have a major impact on property values.

The study focused on development in West Kern, noting that pumping restrictions under the State Groundwater Management Act could result in 185,200 currently farmed acres going fallow, yielding a loss of an estimated 12,400 jobs and $631 million in income for that industry.

Under SGMA five public agencies formed the IWV Groundwater Authority to brings stakeholders together and achieve a plan for sustainability. Among the most highly contested components in that discussion is the future of agriculture.

The News Review caught up with Kern County Assessor-Recorder Jon Lifquist to zero in on how the Indian Wells Valley may be affected.

“Our office has observed no noticeable impacts on property values to date,” he said. “I’d have to assume that water restrictions would mean higher water prices and less development.

“Assuming that [China Lake] continues to operate at current or increased levels, this could create a housing shortage.”

Lifquist said that the impact will be most significant on vacant properties, since water restrictions translate to less development.

“Lack of growth could negatively affect commercial properties within the Indian Wells Valley. Contraction would decrease on property values.”

It’s difficult to predict future tax rolls, said Lifquist, “particularly when you consider the complexity of California’s property tax laws and the fact that each property is valued on the basis of its own individual circumstances. One thing I would say is that I don’t see any dramatic declines, but rather a reduction in growth or stagnation of the tax base.”

Lifquist acknowledged the local dispute about groundwater availability. “The downside of groundwater management is that development in the area is probably not going to increase. Obviously if you assume there is limited water, that will have a huge impact on the community.”

However, he said, because his job as an appraiser is based on historical numbers, it’s difficult to predict outcomes.

“I don’t have any more insight than anyone else. At this point it’s all speculative.”

The News Review will report on the perspective of local realtors in next week’s edition.

Story First Published: 2017-05-05