San Francisco supervisor calls for ballot initiative to tax landlords who leave homes vacant
Supervisor Dean Preston announced the initiative at a press conference on Tuesday morning. It would take around 9,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The goal is to entice real estate investors who leave homes vacant until the market is in their favor to list or rent the property.
“These are people who buy and sell housing in San Francisco like they buy and sell stocks on the stock exchange. on empty houses,” Supervisor Preston said.
He estimates the tax could bring in about $38 million a year. He suggests that the money go to homelessness prevention and affordable housing.
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The tax rate would be based on the size of the property and how long it has been vacant. For example, a unit under 1,000 square feet would be taxed $2,500 for one year, $10,000 for three years. A home of 20,000 square feet or more would be taxed $20,000 for its third year of vacancy.
Exemptions would include a property undergoing renovation, a natural disaster, or a homeowner who is in long-term care or has passed away.
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“If it’s a legitimate, bona fide reason that there’s some sort of vacancy, that tax won’t be taxed. But if you’re in the business of holding units off the market for long periods of time, we’re not just going to tax you, but every year of this vacancy that tax is going to go up,” Preston said.
Some critics call this tax proposal a distraction and say what city leaders really need to focus on is building more affordable housing.
“When we look at the extent of our shortage and the number of homes we need to build, that’s a drop in the bucket. San Francisco has a history of not building enough housing and the council of monitoring tries to avoid solving the problem,” said Corey Smith, deputy director of the Housing Action Coalition.
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The board of supervisors recently rejected a plan to build an apartment building in the valet parking lot of a Nordstrom department store.
Preston’s office says that’s not a situation.
Preston says the City of Vancouver implemented a similar tax and saw vacancies drop by 20%.
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