There are more than 110,000 empty rental units in Los Angeles. Filling those spaces won’t solve the housing and homelessness crises, but some people think it might help chip away at them.

L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin introduced a motion Tuesday that would tax landlords who leave rentable units vacant.

At last count, there were about 111,810 empty housing units in the city, as reported by the 2017 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census. According to Bonin’s motion, the city needs about 500,000 units.

Beverly Kenworthy, the vice president of the California Apartment Association Los Angeles — a trade group representing owners, investors, developers, managers and suppliers of rental properties — says that the city should focus more on examining “fees and regulations” it places on landlords, rather than implementing a tax.

“Rental housing providers do not like keeping units vacant,” she said in an email. “But given strict rent control laws, and the regulations, costs, and lifetime tenancies they bring, owners face a choice: rent out the unit, or keep it vacant, even if it loses them money. The city’s rent control law and the efforts to make rent control more strict across California only make this choice simpler for landlords.”

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