On this November’s ballot, Proposition M, “Tax on Keeping Residential Units Vacant,” intends to supercede privacy rights of citizens in their homes by putting rigid parameters on how you use your home.
Democratic Socialist Dean Preston wants to grab unprecedented control of your home through a “vacancy tax” known as Proposition M (for “misleading”). It is a typically ill-conceived and dishonest measure that gives extraordinary control over your home to the Board of Supervisors through a sneaky provision that eliminates voter rights.
Proposition M purports to target large property owners “intentionally” leaving units unrented. But any single unit owner in a building with three or more units is subject to punitive fines if the home is vacant for more than 183 days per year for any reason: hospitalization, work travel, staying with a partner, or caring for family.
Proposition M specifically excludes single-family homes and duplexes, but in a Ballot Explainer event on Aug. 15, 2022, a named proponent of the measure publicly stated that the intention is to expand this law to include single-family homes and duplexes after the measure passes.
So, apparently Preston and his supporters decided it was worth defrauding voters to create the socialist dystopia they are striving for.
But how can they change the parameters after the fact? Because they have worked into the legislation an abdication of voter rights. The legal text of Proposition M provides that the Board of Supervisors “may amend … this article … without a vote of the people.”
To put a fine point on it: A vote for Proposition M is a vote for control of private property by the Board of Supervisors, whereby a two-thirds vote can expand this vacancy tax to all types of property, including primary homes, single-family homes, duplexes, RVs, etc.; change the definition of “vacancy” to occupied for less than 300 days a year; and keep increasing the annual amount of the tax without limit.
Does this sound unconstitutional? It probably is.
SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
Proposition M is written to punish large developers and corporations, but it will end up hurting small property owners, multigenerational households and renters more.
Consider: Use of your home can be tracked with utility bills and by neighbors spying and reporting to the government — is that really the society we want to live in?
Proposition M is sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of America and Supervisor Dean Preston, who has opposed construction of more than 30,000 homes.
His measure is cynically written to exempt some property owners (himself), while punishing small mom-and-pop homeowners and multigenerational households.
This tax is passed through to tenants.
City government already allocates almost $1 billion to departments that oversee and fund affordable housing.
And family members aren’t considered tenants under the measure, so multigenerational households and family members living under one roof would be fined in a building that is fully occupied.
With all the negatives, how are they selling Proposition M? Proponents claim that it will increase available housing and the fines will support affordable housing. Unfortunately these claims are based on false information and are patently ridiculous.
They assert there are 40,000 vacant units in San Francisco, but looking at the data, that is a huge exaggeration, according to a report to Supervisor Preston, reported in the San Francisco Standard, Jan. 31, 2022.
Laws should never be based on manipulated data. Of those 40,000 units, 7,200 are on the market and available to rent; 4,000 are in process of being rented or sold; 8,000 have been sold and the new owner is in the process of moving in; and of the remaining units, some are undergoing repair. Many of the units that are pied-á-terres were purposefully exempted from the tax in an effort to play politics.
How much money will the measure raise? Maybe $45 million, which is nothing compared to the $1 billion already allocated but unused due to Preston blocking building. The problem is not one of funds for affordable housing — it is one of political will.
Proposition M is a Trojan horse, pretending to be a pro-renter measure while allowing the Board of Supervisors to expand aspects of the law without voter approval. Enough with supervisor power-grabs and schemes to penalize everyday San Franciscans. I urge you to vote for sanity — vote no on misleading Proposition M.
Marie Hurabiell is the co-lead of SOAR-D1.com and is a candidate for the Community College Board.
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