OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – A property measure in Oakland aimed at raising funds to fight the homeless crisis is sparking outrage among landlords.
Measure W would tax vacant buildings to help the homeless. City leaders say Oakland currently has more vacant properties than homeless people and argue the measure would reduce blight.
If Measure W passes in Oakland, an abandoned house or a vacant lot would cost the property owner between $3,000 and $6,000 a year.
Neighbors who live next to a vacant lot frequently occupied by the homeless complain the property owner has neglected the lot for ages, allowing it to become a neighborhood blight.
Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan says this is why she wants to tax vacant properties to fund homeless programs and pay for blight removal.
“To encourage to put it back into use, to house people or provide other public needs,” said Kaplan.
Measure W would charge $6,000 per parcel and $3,000 per condominium unit if they’re used for fewer than 50 days a year.
“It’s not just a stick, but also a carrot; money to help people fix up properties and rent them out as affordable housing,” explained Kaplan.
She says Oakland has roughly 5,000 vacant properties compared to 3,000 homeless people.
“This is about property speculators who own extra property they don’t use,” Kaplan said.
But opponents argue Measure W would affect small landlords and homeowners who have an extra unit.
They launched an attack ad that questions why someone who might be fixing up a unit for a family member should be penalized by the tax.
“It’s not fair for politicians to tax homeowners for being able to utilize their home the way they want to utilize it,” argued Measure W opponent Jacqueline Jacobs.
Jacobs is on the board of the East Bay Rental Housing Association. She says legislation should not put the burden of solving the homeless crisis on property owners.
“The city of Oakland has a lot of vacant lands also,” said Jacobs “So if they would set the stage and be the forerunner and develop these lands for affordable housing, that would send a greater message.”