One idea that has popped up once more, extra typically than the little animals in a Whack-a-Mole sport, is the prospect of an “Empty Houses Tax.”
Merely put, if somebody owns property right here however doesn’t reside in it for, say, six months out of the yr, then we cost that somebody a hefty actual property tax surcharge. Why? As a result of that somebody has eliminated a housing unit from circulation in a spot the place we actually, actually need housing models. Simply final yr, for instance, the Honolulu Metropolis Council was contemplating a invoice (Invoice 9 of 2022) that might have set the tax at 3% of the property worth, per yr.
Final yr, after we wrote about this growth, we identified that there can be a number of devils within the particulars. How does one hope to implement such a tax with out operating roughshod over folks’s privateness (which is constitutionally protected on this State)? Will we merely require everybody to file a type, yearly, saying that “1234 Aloha Drive is my residence, and I’ve lived in it for greater than six months this yr,” assume that the oldsters who haven’t despatched the shape in have vacant property, after which throw them to the wolves within the Metropolis’s tax assortment company? How would we cope with the ensuing flood of people that (1) by no means heard in regards to the new regulation, type, or tax, (2) found out that there was a tax and a type, however for no matter cause filed the shape too late, or (3) had good causes for not dwelling in the home, equivalent to being hospitalized for a considerable a part of the yr?
This yr, the Metropolis & County of Honolulu is attempting once more. They’re on the trail towards commissioning a research, projected to exit for bid in August, that seeks to find out “why so many properties are vacant, and the way a vacant properties tax may gain advantage Honolulu’s many residents who lack appropriate housing. Advantages to be explored ought to embody contributions to a housing fund, discouraging the ‘hoarding’ of empty properties and inspiring house owners to lease these properties to Hawaii households.” The Star-Advertiser seems to be on board with this concept, because it said in an editorial on July 14th. Metropolis officers say that the research will likely be paid for with federal pandemic aid cash, so residents don’t have to fret about its value.
First, am I the one one questioning what on the earth a vacant properties tax has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic in order to justify funding this research with pandemic aid funds? Second, what in regards to the research completed by the UCLA Luskin Faculty of Public Affairs that the Metropolis had completed in 2021? Is that this new research going to cowl the identical floor, and if it does, why are we taxpayers getting hit for an additional one? In order that two unbiased consultants, when the Metropolis asks, “Can we, fairly please, impose this tax?”, reply with, “Yeah, we suppose so”?
If we are able to’t get out of that second research, we should always at the very least have it tackle new developments, equivalent to a paper put out by the Grassroot Institute saying, in impact, “Vacant properties don’t trigger obscene housing costs, however a screwed-up constructing allowing system positive does!”
Of us on the Neighbor Islands: Don’t chortle. You may be subsequent!