(KRON) — “Why not use the supply that we already have, you know?” said Pat Cochran. “If you’re going to have this many empty homes, we gotta use what we already have.”
Cochran is the campaign coordinator for the Empty Homes Tax, a tax measure aimed to encourage investors to rent out their vacant units they would otherwise hold until the market value increases. He says the campaign collected nearly 14,000 signatures, well above the 9,000 needed to appear before voters in November.
“We finished nearly a month early, so we were able to get all the signatures we needed within a 15 week period,” Cochran said.
Supervisor Dean Preston, who supports the tax measure, says that if approved, the tax could make 4,500 vacant units available over a two-year period.
“It’s heartbreaking to see perfectly good homes being held vacant while we have a huge crisis on affordable housing and huge crisis on homelessness in the city,” Preston said. “It’s just such a big disconnect there, so what this will do is it will just change that business practice that a lot of those businesses use of emptying out buildings and then just holding them vacant. Now they would pay per unit annually if they do that.”
Preston says there are nearly 40,000 vacant homes in San Francisco. While some are listed for sale or rent, January’s analyst’s report found that nearly 8,000 empty homes were those that were sold but not occupied. Preston says most of those are investment properties, owned by investors waiting for the market to increase.
In the first year, the proposed tax would range from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on the size of the unit. The tax would increase each year, reaching a maximum of $20,000.
Preston says the tax is projected to generate more than $38 million in annual revenue.
“The tax revenue would be split 50/50 for two purposes,” Preston said. “One is for rent subsidies for seniors and low income families, so that would be half the money. The other half of the money would go into a fund which the city could use to purchase vacant buildings and make them into affordable housing.”
Owners of vacant homes in buildings with three or more units would be subject to the tax if a unit had been vacant for more than 182 days. Single family homes and duplexes would be exempt.