San Francisco may propose a vacant property tax

San Francisco voters may decide if the city should impose a tax on vacant residential or commercial property. Supervisor Aaron Peskin is expected to introduce the idea because he wants to encourage property owners to lease out empty retail space and housing units. 

The proposal would charge $250 a day for up to 30 days on vacant properties. Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who has been mulling over the proposal for about a year, is expected to introduce the idea and joined us live on air for The 4. 

"Let's be real, the Amazon effect is impacting ground-floor commercial businesses not only in San Francisco, but around the United States of America," Peskin said. But he also notes seismic retrofitting and fires can cause long-term vacancy. "We also have chronic, long-term vacancies where landlords have unrealistic expectations of value, have held their units off of the market." 

Peskin said 20% of the vacancies in North Beach, which is included in his district are long-term vacancies where the landlord refuses to rent. "We can't make you rent, but we can give you a financial incentive to do so," he said. But that will require a vote of the people. 

Peskin said he and his colleagues hope to put that on the ballot by November 2019. The question remains, will a $7,500 a month tax create the incentive for landlords to rent? Peskin said the board will debate this issue before it goes on the ballot, but they do want to create a strong incentive to get properties that have been held off the market to be rented out, especially during a housing crisis. 

There could be exceptions. 

"If you are diligently pursuing a lease in good faith, obviously we will make exceptions. We want this to be fair and reasonable," Peskin said. 

The money raised from this tax actually doesn't aid the housing crisis directly, but would aid businesses that have been displaced by the city's mandatory seismic retrofitting program. 

"This is not meant to be a revenue generating tax," said Peskin. He sees it more as a behavior changer.