Vacancy Tax is a Colorblind Solution, Lens Says

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, joined WBUR Here & Now to discuss the growing housing affordability and homelessness crisis across the country. Some cities have addressed the issue with the implementation of a vacancy tax. However, Lens pointed out that “there is little active data collected on the number of vacant units — and why no one is residing in them.” He stressed the importance of “collecting good and timely data to know exactly what is vacant for how long and why.” Lens also said a vacancy tax is a colorblind solution that fails to get at the core of race and class inequality. “If you think about eviction, if you think about homelessness, if you think about the negative impacts of segregation, this is a problem that is often very concentrated in particular communities amongst households of color,” he said. “And so a vacancy tax is not getting at those root problems.”

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