The Los Angeles City Council took a preliminary step Tuesday toward putting a vacancy tax measure before voters that would be aimed at compelling landlords to put vacant units on the market to alleviate the city's housing crunch.
"A vacancy tax would put a penalty on homes kept empty while thousands continue to sleep on our streets each night,'' said Councilman David Ryu, who co-introduced the motion directing city lawyers to draft the measure for possible placement on the November ballot.
"We can't afford to wait any longer on this issue," he said. "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."
The penalties that would be levied on landlords were not specified in the motion, which Ryu introduced with Councilmen Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Paul Koretz last June.
Bonin moved to exclude commercial properties that are not eligible for residential use and single-family homes that are not owned by corporations.
A similar vacancy tax passed in Oakland penalizes the owners of properties that are in use fewer than 50 days in a calendar year and includes a number of exemptions, such as for landlords who have low incomes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to Ryu's office, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 111,810 empty housing units in the Los Angeles.