In November 2020, Los Angeles is enacting a new tax with the main goal to mitigate the city’s ever-growing homelessness crisis. The tax is directed at landowners, taking three to six thousand dollars annually for every vacant property they own. Many of the City Councilmen have been strong proponents for this tax, including Mike Bonin, who declared “No bed in this city should be empty when people are being forced to sleep on the pavement.” Simply put, the idea is to fill the 100,000 vacant units with the 60,000 homeless people.
There are two ways this tax is trying to mitigate the homelessness epidemic. One is by getting homeowners to reduce rent costs which will make these vacant properties more affordable for the homeless. However, there is not a system established that will determine how the homeless population will acquire these vacant properties, leading to many important unanswered questions. How will the homeless pay for rent? Wouldn’t ordinary citizens have a much better chance of obtaining these properties? Will the disabled, drug addicts, and mentally ill(a large percentage of the homeless)be given homes?
The second is to collect tax dollars from the homeowners with vacant properties in order to fight the homelessness crisis. Again, it is unclear on where those tax dollars will go. In 2018, Proposition H, another tax Los Angeles citizens voted for, gave the Los Angeles county $600 million to spend on the crisis. According to the LoS Angeles county, the money was allocated to various means such as the Homeless Prevention Program for Families and Individuals, subsidized housing for low-income citizens, and increased employment among homeless adults. The proposition was definitely well-intentioned, yet, in that same year, the homeless population increased by 15 percent.
If a substantial sum of money like that failed to bring change, how will this tax stand a chance? Why is all the burden suddenly being placed on already occupied homeowners? Will continuing to take money from our own pockets really be a practical way to solving this problem? Instead of continuing to take money from our pockets, tax after tax, how about taking the time to plan out how to effectively use our precious tax money.