Measure M, which would tax Berkeley property owners with units that have been vacant for over 182 days, will be on the ballot in November.
The goal of this tax is to put more houses and apartments on the market that have been vacant for a long period of time, according to the city attorney’s analysis of the measure. Due to the growing housing crisis, proponents of the measure said the goal of this tax is to increase housing availability in Berkeley.
“We have 1200 units that are simply not available to rent,” said Kate Harrison, vice mayor of Berkeley. “These former rental units that used to be occupied by tenants are now empty.”
Harrison, who endorsed the measure, explained that this could encourage owners to put more houses on the market so Berkeley residents will have more houses available for them to rent out.
According to the city attorney’s analysis, Measure M would tax residents who own duplexes, condominiums, townhouses or single-family homes at $3,000 per vacant unit — this would increase to $6,000 if the unit remains vacant the subsequent year. For all other residential units, that tax would start at $6,000 and double to $12,000 if the unit remains vacant after the first year.
In addition, Harrison said Measure M would increase tax revenue — the city attorney’s analysis found that the tax could generate an estimated $3.9 million to $5.9 million annually.
However, Andrew Marowitz, who has been a landlord for 35 years, opposed Measure M claiming he would lose a lot of money.
Marowitz added that he would struggle to sell his property if Measure M passes since factors such as high interest rates would make selling it difficult.
“The timing is such that it’s going to victimize me by not being able to sell my property so that another person can come along and rent out my property,” Marowitz said.
Measure M has been endorsed by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmembers Ben Bartlett and Rigel Robinson, as well as local organizations.
Berkeley Neighbors for Housing and Climate Action, or BNHCA, endorsed this tax because its members believe it will have a positive impact on the housing crisis and on fighting climate change.
Steering Committee member of BNHCA Ben Gould said Measure M would have a “small but positive impact” on making homes available for people trying to live in Berkeley.
“Deliberately keeping rental units empty further exacerbates the city’s housing shortage,” Gould said in an email. “Measure M would create financial penalties to discourage landlords from keeping rental units off the market, and is consistent with an ‘all of the above’ approach to housing abundance.”