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Los Angeles should penalize landlords who keep homes vacant as the city suffers a housing and homelessness crisis, several members of the Los Angeles City Council declared in a proposal unveiled Tuesday.

City Councilmen Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Paul Koretz and David Ryu are asking city staffers to come back with options for an “empty homes penalty” or vacancy tax, which would likely have to go before voters for approval. They cited U.S. Census Bureau data indicating that as of two years ago, there were more than 100,000 vacant units across the city.

“In a time when people are sleeping on our streets … we have 111,000 homes in Los Angeles” sitting empty, Bonin said. “We need to take action to put those homes back on the rental market.”

Doing so, he and other council members argued, could prod landlords to bring more housing back into use to relieve pressure on the housing market, as well as generate new revenue for affordable and homeless housing.

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