The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted to have city attorneys draw up a vacancy tax measure for consideration on the November 2020 ballot, potentially creating an additional tax on unoccupied residential units.
If the tax framework is approved, council members plan to use funds to address the homeless crisis and housing needs, according to the agenda item.
A report by the Los Angeles Housing & Community Investment Department looked at an “Empty Homes Penalty” as a way to address homelessness. The report estimated that the city has a housing vacancy rate of 6 percent to 7 percent, or about 85,000 to 100,000 units. If the tax program garnered an estimated $3,000 penalty per unit, it would generate $150 million a year.
The report also noted that higher-end dwellings “are disproportionately vacant while mid- and low-end units have especially low vacancy rates.”
The Valley Industry & Commerce Association made its membership aware of the proposal Tuesday morning, characterizing the move as “rushed” and urging business owners to oppose the tax. The vote did not take into consideration stakeholder input and engagement, VICA said, and should only be discussed beyond this year’s ballot.
“(The measure) would cost the city at least $12 million to place it on the ballot,” VICA said in a statement. “COVID-19 has resulted in an economic crisis impacting all residents and sectors, making any tax on vacancy inappropriate. The City Council should focus on reducing costs and streamlining the construction process in order to create more housing for Angelenos.”