On Tuesday, a proposal for a new city vacancy tax, first introduced a year ago by Los Angeles City Council Members David Ryu, Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Paul Koretz, took a big step forward as the Council voted unanimously to instruct the City Attorney’s office to draft language for a new Empty Homes Tax ballot measure for the November election. (All new city taxes must be approved by voters, and this particular type of “special tax” requires a 2/3 majority to pass.)
According to a statement from Ryu’s office, “The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 111,810 empty housing units in the City of Los Angeles.” So the new tax would pressure landlords to rent their units, and could help to maximize the number of available rental units in the city.
As Ryu himself said in the statement:
“A vacancy tax would put a penalty on homes kept empty while thousands continue to sleep on our streets each night…We can’t afford to wait any longer on this issue. Every year, and every day, homelessness grows. We need every tool possible to bring more housing to market. With tents going up in the shadow of empty luxury apartments, we must be clear: Housing is for people, not investment portfolios.”
Meanwhile, units that remain unrented could also, under the new proposal, bring significant revenue to the city. According to a story in the LA Times on Tuesday:
“An analysis conducted for a city commission by Blue Sky Consulting Group found that after carving out some exemptions, a vacancy tax could cover more than 19,000 residential units, nearly 2,500 commercial units and more than 2,900 parcels across L.A. This could bring in as much as $128 million annually, the study found.”
It’s important to note, though, that the Council’s decision to draft the ballot measure doesn’t mean that it’s a done deal. Once the ballot measure is text is prepared, it will be returned to the Council for review, and council members have until July 1 to vote on whether or not to place it on the November ballot.
This doesn’t seem like the wisest idea – what if they’re remodeling or need to do other work? How can the politicians think this is the way to resolve anything except to increase the monies in the City’s bank accounts? The owners are already paying their taxes on the property – isn’t it their right to do with their own property as they deem fit as long as it’s within the law.
What’s next? If our children move out will we be taxed for those empty bedrooms?
How about the City come up with some real affordable housing on those parking lots they own! Instead of spending money on more studies.
This measure appears to FORCE landlords and home owners to rent their units, otherwise be taxed. Would city be responsible for reimbursing the owner should the designated tenant cause damage to the premises or refuse to pay rent or utilities? What recourse does the owner have? As what Ms. King notes in her comments above, this is another tool to generate revenue to the City and does little to really tackle our problem of homelessness. The fact is , many of the homeless on our streets need medical and mental health assistance and should be placed in shelters where they can receive the proper services and counseling to bring them back into society – Taxing home owners for having their residences empty seams like an intrusion of ones property rights. Where are these taxes applied? Would these revenues benefit our city residents? I think not.