Rebecca Kaplan’s proposal includes taxing vacant properties to fund homeless solutions. She recently spoke to the Interfaith Coalition of Alameda County about homeless solutions at the Mormon Temple in Oakland, along with Rev. Ken Chambers and Helen Wyman of Community Bank of the Bay.
Oakland Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan is proposing a special tax on vacant properties to help fund homeless solutions.
Oakland has been facing skyrocketing rates of homelessness. This situation is causing widespread suffering, as people are living in difficult situations in underpasses and sidewalks, often without access to sanitary necessities.
Currently, Oakland has many vacant properties including vacant lots, homes, and other buildings that are empty and not in use. Some have not been used for years, and are more valuable as land banks than it would be to maintain a functioning building.
“Many of these properties are left vacant year after year, harming neighborhoods and the city. Vacant properties add to the blight to our neighborhoods, attract illegal dumping, and deprive our community of the opportunity to have those vacant properties be used to house people and provide other productive uses,” Kaplan said.
Existing strategies and resources have been inadequate to address the scope of the city’s housing crisis. The heavy reliance on police resources to move homeless encampments repeatedly from one underpass to the next, without offering a stable place for relocation, is costing the City of Oakland money without solving any problems.
There is precedent for the tax Kaplan is proposing. Other cities, such as Washington, D.C. and Vancouver, Canada have adopted a vacant property tax.
Kaplan says that by taxing vacant properties, this will help encourage people to put those properties back into use, thus, increasing the housing supply. The money raised by the Measure would create a dedicated funding stream to support real homeless solutions, by ensuring they have a funding source that doesn’t have to be fought over each year. The funding would include sanitation and services, rapid rehousing, alternative housing structure solutions, navigation centers, and more.
The measure also creates a Homeless Commission, to ensure community oversight and accountability. Kaplan says that by taxing vacant properties, property owners will be encouraged to put their vacant properties back into use, thus increasing the housing supply.
The proposal will be heard during the Oakland City Council meeting on March 13. If approved by the city, it would be placed on the November ballot.