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San Francisco lawmaker wants to tax landlords who keep apartments vacant

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This would be in addition to the small fee owners currently pay for keeping space resident-free

New housing in Mission Bay with a view of downtown SF in the background. Photo by Torbak Hopper

It’s a problem in San Francisco, units that remain vacant. Pick any reason why this frustrating phenomenon occurs: pro-tenant housing laws, greedy landlords smarting over rent control, owners waiting for leases to end in order to sell, overseas investments. Seeing as how the city is in the midst of a crippling housing crisis, vacant units, which could and should be filled, aren’t doing the masses any good.

Enter Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a lawmaker responsible for blocking development in the past, who wants the powers that be to toy with the idea of taxing landlords who keep units vacant.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, Peskin would like the City Attorney’s Office to “explore legislation that would allow the city and county San Francisco to impose a vacancy tax on property owners to help mitigate the impacts of the widespread practice of warehousing valuable residential and commercial units.”

This would go on top of the small fee landlords already pay for keeping space resident-free.

As SFist notes, “San Francisco's Department of Building Inspection has since 2009 required owners of empty buildings (commercial and residential) to register their property as vacant with the city, including an explanation of what future plans they have for the property. They must also pay a $765 annual fee.”

No word yet as to how much said tax would be.

As for exactly how many residential units are currently bone-dry, a SPUR 2014 study suggests that roughly 30,000 vacant are vacant in San Francisco, which, according to the Examiner, “included 8,900 units in the process of being rented, 2,400 ownership units in the process being sold or sold and not yet occupied, vacation or seasonal use at about 9,100 units, and 9,700 units not in any of those categories.”