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Honolulu Council revisits proposal to tax houses that sit empty on Oʻahu

Catherine Cruz

Members of the Honolulu City Council’s recently assembled real property taxation working group met Tuesday to talk over proposals that could affect more than 130,000 island households.

Among the measures discussed was Bill 9, which would tax properties that sit empty — often used for investment purposes by homeowners.

Councilmembers hope that it might incentivize owners to rent or sell their empty properties to address housing needs within the state.

However, several challenges with this plan were discussed at Tuesday's meeting. Some include how the city would identify the number of empty homes that exist on the island and how they would constitutionally enforce a law of this kind.

Andy Kawano, the director of the city's Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, said they are close to issuing a request for proposals for an empty home study.

"It's near final, but we're still going through final steps before we can actually post it," Kawano said.

Kawano said that's just the beginning. The department must then give time for the offers to come in with their proposals in order to be reviewed.

"After that, then you get into contracting. And that probably won't happen till next year," Kawano said.

He added that he hopes to issue a request for proposals for the study before the end of June.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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