On June 16, 2020, with the City under lockdown because of Covid-19, the Los Angeles City Council proposed to place the Vacancy Tax on the November 3, 2020 ballot. This required the approval of the City Council and the Mayor within two short weeks.
VACANT PROPERTY TAX TO FUND AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESS RESOURCES.
Shall a measure funding affordable housing and homeless resources by taxing certain properties vacant 315 days or more per year, at annual rates of $6,000 for multi-family properties and corporate owned single-family properties and $5,000-$10,000 or more for vacant residential and mixed-use parcels, increasing with size; exemptions for hardship, low-income seniors, and others; raising approximately $__million annually for 20 years, be adopted?
However, the lack of transparency and the rush-to-the-ballot without any hearings caused a backlash that forced the City Council to postpone placing the Vacancy Tax on the ballot until the June 7. 2022 primary election.
According to the 2020 ordinance, the City requires 260,000 affordable housing units to serve its population. At the same time, there are 85,000 to 100,000 vacant housing units in the City.
The objective of the Vacancy Tax is to “return empty or under-utilized properties to use as long-term rental homes; help relieve pressure on the region's rental housing market; and create a revenue stream for affordable or homeless housing and services.” This dedicated tax that would raise an estimated $120 million would have needed the approval of two-thirds of the voters.
If the City Council proposes to place the Vacancy Tax on the June primary ballot and if the members want buy-in from the voters, the process must be open and transparent with sufficient time for Angelenos to have a thorough understanding of the impact of this proposed tax and whether it is in our best interests. Otherwise, the Vacancy Tax may be rejected by a skeptical electorate.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)