Oakland Proposition W: Vacant Property Tax | KALW

Oakland Proposition W: Vacant Property Tax

Oct 4, 2018

Measure W is a vacant property tax in Oakland, aimed at reducing homelessness and illegal dumping.

The city would tax owners of vacant properties up to 6,000 dollars a year. The measure defines “vacant” as properties used less than 50 days a year. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who proposed the bill, says the tax could raise up to 10 million dollars annually over the next 20 years. The measure provides exemptions if owners are seniors, low-income, have disabilities or are non-profit organizations.

Revenue collected from the tax will fund homeless services such as job training and temporary housing, and resources to deter illegal dumping. Money will also go into programs encouraging vacant property owners to build low-income housing.

There are about 4,400 bare lots in Oakland. The number of vacant residential and commercial buildings is unknown. Kaplan suspects that most owners of vacant properties are holding them in anticipation of cashing in big on Oakland’s hot real estate market, and says bare lots invite illegal dumping.

Supporters say letting these properties sit empty is inexcusable because of the homelessness crisis.

But opponents of the measure worry the tax fee could hurt small landowners. And they argue that the measure, isn’t clear on how owners can prove they qualify for exemptions. Even some supporters of the tax question how the city will determine if a property is vacant, and how it will monitor spaces that are rarely used.

Measure W needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and would go into effect in 2020.

So, if you think owners of vacant properties, should be taxed up to 6,000 dollars a year with revenue going towards homeless services and reducing illegal dumping, vote YES on Measure W. If you think vacant property owners shouldn’t be taxed, vote NO.