A four-bedroom home near West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz sits empty in June after it was sold for $2.3 million in November. Homes under active construction would be exempt from a proposed tax on empty homes. (Kara Meyberg Guzman -- Santa Cruz Local)

Measure N, a proposed tax on vacant homes in the City of Santa Cruz, was rejected by voters. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local file)

Measure N: City of Santa Cruz Empty Home Tax – Majority to pass

Vote Total
Yes 11202 (46.04%)
No 13130 (53.96%)

SANTA CRUZ >> Measure N — the Empty Home Tax initiative in the City of Santa Cruz — fell short of the majority needed for approval in official election results posted Dec. 6.

Measure N is a tax on homes that are vacant for most of the year in the City of Santa Cruz.

  • The tax would raise money for affordable housing projects.
  • Because of the city’s housing shortage, the tax is intended to incentivize homeowners to occupy or rent their properties. Proponents gathered signatures to put the measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.

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If Measure N were adopted, starting in 2024 homeowners in the city would be required to submit an annual form online or by mail that declares whether their home has been occupied for at least 120 days in the past year. The days do not have to be consecutive, and the home can be occupied by the owner or by a tenant, according to the proposed law.

If the parcel has been occupied for fewer than 120 days in the past year, owners would pay a fee of $6,000 per parcel for a single family home. Owners would pay $6,000 per vacant parcel for complexes of up to six units, and pay $3,000 per vacant unit for complexes of seven or more units.

The initiative includes several exemptions from the tax:

  • Homeowners who had a major medical event or active military deployment.
  • Buildings under active construction.
  • Owners waiting for building permit approval or development entitlements from the city.
  • The 291 parcels permitted under the city’s Short Term Rental Ordinance.

For background information on Measure N, read Santa Cruz Local’s Election Guide.

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Stephen Baxter is a co-founder and editor of Santa Cruz Local. He covers Santa Cruz County government.