Vancouver's rate of vacant homes in line with other cities; condos make up vast majority

Vancouver's rate of vacant homes is in line with other big cities and has been flat since 2002, but the vast majority of empty units are condominiums, a landmark study has found.

See Full Article

City staff and software company Ecotagious Inc. examined the electricity consumption of 225,000 homes in Vancouver over 12 years in response to growing public concerns that empty homes were driving up prices and leaving some neighbourhoods nearly abandoned.

The study, presented to city council Tuesday, found the residential non-occupancy rate was 4.9 per cent in 2002 and 4.8 per cent in 2014, although the number of empty units rose from 8,400 to 10,800 due to overall growth in housing stock.

Ninety per cent of vacant units were apartments. Apartments for rent had a vacancy rate of close to zero, while condominiums that are owned and not available for rent had a whopping 12.5 per cent vacancy rate in 2014.

"We know that there are thousands of units of empty homes that potentially could be available for rental, when we have one of the tightest rental markets in the world," Mayor Gregor Robertson told council after the presentation.

"This could be a great new supply of housing -- thousands of units that could be available and also generate revenue for their owners."

Council unanimously passed a motion for the mayor to write to Premier Christy Clark to reiterate a request made in May 2015 for municipalities to have the legal tools to track property ownership and ensure timely occupancy of empty units.

The motion also asked staff to report back this year with recommendations for specific policy and regulatory steps the city, province or federal government could take to address empty homes based on consultation with experts and residents.

The report effectively dispels the notion that investors are buying single-family homes in Vancouver and leaving them empty, driving up prices and reducing supply.

City housing planner Matthew Bourke said there doesn't appear to be a correlation between empty homes and housing prices, given that the vacancy rate remained flat while prices skyrocketed.

Single-family and duplex housing units showed low and relatively stable non-occupancy rates of one per cent between 2002 and 2014, the report found.

Bourke told council that about 70 per cent of single-family homes marked as vacant in 2014 were found to be waiting for a renovation permit.

Coun. Kerry Jang said the report raises the question of whether the idea that foreign buyers are parking their money in Vancouver is really just a "myth."

"If it was foreign buyers, you would see spikes all over the place or in particular parts of town, but it's all really just condos," he said.

The geographical region of Vancouver that includes the pricey west side had the highest overall non-occupancy rate at 7.4 per cent, while the rate downtown was six per cent.

The study was completed using anonymous BC Hydro data from 225,000 out of the approximately 280,000 homes in Vancouver.

A vacant home shows less variability in electricity use on a day-to-day basis. A home was categorized as vacant for one year if it registered as unoccupied for each of four months when heat isn't used -- August, September and the following June and July.


Latest Economic News

  • Expected U.S. rate rise will matter to Canadians with big debt: Don Pittis

    Economic CBC News
    A rise in U.S. interest rates tomorrow is so confidently expected by nearly everyone that a failure to hike rates would shock world markets. In his first official press conference since taking over for Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is expected to set the direction for interest rate increases this year and into the more distant future. Source
  • Q & A: Russian trolls may be a factor in heated Canadian pipeline debate

    Economic CBC News
    Russian trolls could be a factor in the acrimonious pipeline debates occurring in Canada and the United States, says an expert on ethical hacking and network security. "It could influence it greatly," said John Zabiuk of Edmonton's Northern Alberta Institute of TechnologyNotorious Russian online troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets"Already there is a wide rift of the knowledge that people have with regard to these projects," he said. Source
  • Scandal-hit Weinstein Co. files for bankruptcy protection

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday with a buyout offer in hand from a private equity firm, the latest twist in its efforts to survive the sexual misconduct scandal that brought down co-founder Harvey Weinstein, shook Hollywood and triggered a movement that spread out to convulse other industries. Source
  • Court filings say multiple offers for Toys 'R' Us Canadian stores

    Economic CTV News
    U.S. court filings show that debtors for Toys "R" Us have received multiple non-binding offers for the Canadian division of the troubled retailer. The bankruptcy documents say debtors had reached out to more than 20 interested parties in a bid to sell off the 82 stores in Canada as the toy retailer looks to wind down operations. Source
  • TSX ends down along with U.S. markets, Canadian dollar makes slight gains

    Economic CBC News
    Canada's main stock index joined U.S. markets in the red Monday as a Federal Reserve meeting looms and a share price hit at Facebook over improper data use weighed on the tech sector. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 121.94 points to 15,589.39, led by declines in energy and base metals as both oil and copper prices slipped. Source
  • Analyst warns B.C. gas prices could soon hit a record high

    Economic CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Drivers in British Columbia should brace for record high gasoline prices this summer and the financial pain has the potential to spread across the country, says a petroleum industry analyst. Dan McTeague of the online tech company GasBuddy predicts that beginning in April and continuing to September, gasoline prices across much of B.C. Source
  • Facebook shares fall as EU, U.S. urge probes of data practices

    Economic CBC News
    Facebook Inc. faced growing pressure on Monday after European and U.S. lawmakers called for investigations into reports that a consultancy that worked on President Donald Trump's campaign gained access to data on 50 million Facebook users. Source
  • Nordstrom Rack to open first Canadian store in Vaughan, Ont., Toronto to follow

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- American department store Nordstrom is opening the first Canadian location of its discount Rack chain on Thursday. The 35,000-square-foot store will be situated north of Toronto at Vaughan Mills mall. It is promising savings of up to 70 per cent on products from 38 of the 50 brands already sold in its Canadian department stores. Source
  • Greenpeace says brands refusing to reveal palm oil sources

    Economic CTV News
    JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Greenpeace says several major household brands including Hershey and Johnson & Johnson have failed to disclose where they get their palm oil from despite vows to stop buying from companies that cut down tropical forests to grow the widely used commodity. Source
  • 'Took fake news to the next level': Facebook data whistleblower on U.S. election

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A Trump-affiliated firm under scrutiny for inappropriately obtaining data on tens of millions of Facebook users created profiling algorithms that "took fake news to the next level," a former employee said. Chris Wylie said the firm, Cambridge Analytica, secured personal data in order to learn about individuals and then used it to create an information cocoon to change their perceptions. Source