Vacant home tax could feature on November ballot in San Francisco

San Franciscans could vote this fall on whether the city should tax thousands of vacant homes to encourage landlords to rent them and help ease the housing crisis.

Supervisor Dean Preston said Tuesday that he and local activists wanted to offer voters in November a ballot measure that would force owners of some homes to pay if they sit empty for too long.

Supporters have until July 11 to collect and submit nearly 9,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the November 8 ballot.

Preston’s office estimated the tax could raise more than $38 million a year.

If it passes the ballot and voters approve it, San Francisco would follow in the footsteps of a handful of other expensive cities, including Oakland, which have responded in part to the housing shortage by trying to free up more of their existing units. .

The idea is being proposed in San Francisco as city supervisors have at times clashed with Mayor London Breed over how best to address the city’s sky-high housing costs and shortage of affordable housing. Supervisors killed Breed’s third attempt to streamline new housing construction through a charter amendment and rejected a 495-unit SoMa construction project the mayor called a ‘perfect example’ of “how San Francisco got into the housing crisis”.

If voters approve the new tax, half of its revenue would fund housing subsidies for seniors and low-income families, while the other half would support a new program to help the city buy empty buildings and convert them into affordable housing.

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