Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, June 30, 2019
The Tax on Ghost Homes
By Tom Yamachika @ 5:00 AM :: 3481 Views :: Development, Land Use, Taxes

The Tax on Ghost Homes

by Tom Yamachika, President, Tax Foundation Hawaii

The Hawaii State Tax Watch Doggie is discussing a new Honolulu property tax proposal with his wife, the consummate researcher.

Q. I thought we had enough problems trying to tax the usage of real property. Now the City and County wants to tax people who don’t use their real property!

A. Do you mean the mayor’s proposed tax on unoccupied homes? The city of Vancouver in Canada imposes a “vacancy fee” on homes that are neither occupied nor rented. The tax there is 1% of the property’s assessed taxable value. The mayor’s proposal is based on that.

Q: You researched that already? How did you know I was thinking about it?

A: You’ve been snarling and growling about it for the past week.

Q: Oh. Hmm…so how does the city figure out if a home is vacant?

A: In Vancouver, questionnaires are sent to all property owners. These can be filled out either on paper or online. If a property hasn’t been occupied by the owner, the questionnaire then asks if it’s been rented or occupied by others, and if so, what are the names of the renters or occupiers; if the property has been undergoing renovation that makes occupancy impossible, and if so, what’s the building permit number; if the owners have been hospitalized or are in a long-term care facility, and if so, what’s the name of the facility; and if the owners can’t occupy the property because of a court order, and if so, what’s the case number.

Q: What’s to stop people from lying on their declarations to avoid the tax?

A: False declarations are perjury. Vancouver also provides for fines of up to $10,000 per day, in addition to payment of the tax, for a false declaration.

Q: The mayor says that the vacancy tax will result in more housing units being put on the market for rental, and additional monies collected that would help fund programs to help the homeless. What do you think about that?

A: In Vancouver, a news article from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation noted that there was little change in the number of vacant homes, but the tax produced more money than expected.

Q: So, is that why Civil Beat’s recent editorial proposed a vacant home fee of 5% or 10% rather than the 1% that Vancouver is using?

A: They said that the “idea is sound, the amount woefully inadequate. A 5% or 10% vacancy tax would be more appropriate. That still might not be enough to change the behavior of many absentee landowners, but at least it would generate a sizable sum of revenue that could be dedicated to building affordable housing elsewhere.”

Q: The 1% was selected to be at about the difference between commercial and residential rates. In Honolulu, Residential A owners pay $4.50 per $1,000 of the first $1 million of value. Commercial property owners pay $12.40. One percent corresponds to $10 per $1,000.

A: If the vacant homes tax ends up to be 4% or 5%, people will be motivated to avoid the tax. Maybe they will try to get the property reclassified to commercial.

Q: Also, I have my doubts about whether any money taken in would go to affordable housing or homeless services. The City must fund the rail project and is going to have to find millions to pay for its operation and maintenance. It must plow hundreds of millions into capital improvements such as sewer system upgrades. The Mayor also has been talking about upgrades to the Blaisdell Center as well as establishing a transit plaza at Ala Moana Center.

A: That makes my shopping sound insignificant in comparison! I guess it’s okay for me to take it up a notch.

Q: (Whine) I didn’t see that one coming!


June 15, 2019: Debunked: Caldwell’s ‘Vancouver Tax’ Does Nothing to Ease Rental Crisis


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

ACA Signups Hawaii


Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Astronomy Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group


Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break


DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina


Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute


Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Life Alliance

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Heritage Foundation



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes


Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group


Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii



National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Hawaiian

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today


Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii



Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Save Dillingham Airfield

School Choice in Hawaii


Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu


West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii