New Hampshire budget writers are currently wrangling with that perennial question: where to find revenues to support key spending priorities, from education to mental health services. The New Hampshire House settled on a proposal to tax capital gains, but the editors of the Concord Monitor recently published a piece suggesting an alternative: taxing the Granite State’s many second homes.
Second homes make up roughly 10% of the state’s housing stock, with higher concentrations in the four northernmost counties. Towns with a higher percentage of second homes tend to have higher property values than neighboring towns with fewer second homes. They also generally have lower property tax rates.
New York considers “pied-à-terre" tax
New York lawmakers recently considered a move to impose an extra property tax on second homes. The tax would only have applied to homes worth $5 million or more which were owned by someone who was not a New York resident. The rate would have been graduated, starting at 0.5% and rising up to 4%. Funds were to go toward improvements to the New York City subway system.
The effort initially had broad bipartisan support, but outcry from the real estate industry shifted the balance, and the proposal was killed.
Second home taxes elsewhere
No city or state in the U.S. currently charges higher tax rates for second homes. Paris, however, passed a second-home tax in 2015.
Other cities, such as Oakland and Vancouver, have passed taxes on homes left vacant for much of the year no matter whether they are owned by in- or out-of-staters.
Could it work in NH?
There’s no legislative move right now to impose a second-home tax in New Hampshire.
Any change to that policy would have to come at the state level. Cities and towns in New Hampshire don’t have the power to pass their own taxes.
A fair source of revenue?
The Concord Monitor editors argued that a tax on second homes would raise funds for important priorities while staying “in keeping with the Granite State tradition of raising as much money as possible from non-residents.”
The tax would also mean some of the perks of second homes would be shared more broadly across the state. Right now, the towns where those homes are located reap most of the benefits in terms of jobs, economic activity, higher property values and lower tax rates.
Others argue that discouraging the construction or purchase of second homes isn’t necessarily a bad idea, noting the lack of affordable housing in areas where vacation homes proliferate.
Or a case of bad policy?
Opponents argue that a tax on second homes will simply push those buyers to other states. Second home ownership can contribute a significant economic boost in areas that lack any other industry, making them (and their owners) a key source of jobs for the local community and of tax revenue to fund area services. If second-home buyers leave NH, it would lower real estate values overall—and potentially just lead to higher property taxes on everyone to make up the difference.
Would you support a tax on second homes? If so, what would it look like? Would it only impact more expensive second homes, or all of them? Or only those owned by out-of-staters? Join the conversation and share your thoughts.