Via: City of Vancouver
Responding to public concerns that empty homes could be impacting housing affordability and neighbourhood vibrancy, the City of Vancouver presented the findings of a comprehensive study on unoccupied homes to Council this morning.
View the staff presentation to Council
The study showed that, overall, there has been no change in the percentage of empty homes since 2002. Even though the rate of empty homes hasn’t changed, Vancouver is still facing significant affordability challenges and the City remains concerned about the impact on the already limited supply of rental housing.
Study examined housing occupancy using electricity consumption data
This study is the first of its kind to find out how many homes are sitting unoccupied on a long term basis. Working with consultant Ecotagious, anonymized information from BC Hydro from 2002 to 2014 was analyzed and then reviewed by a panel of external industry experts to evaluate the methodology and findings. To assess the validity of concern around unoccupied homes, the study looked only at how many homes were being left empty, but not the cause of why some units are unoccupied.
The findings of the study, which looked at 225,000 homes in Vancouver, showed that:
- The percentage of unoccupied homes has remained steady since 2002 – about 4.8 per cent for all housing types.
- Looking at data from 225,000 homes, a total of 10,800 homes were empty for a year or more.
- Of all the empty homes identified, 90 per cent were condos and apartments.
- The percentage of empty single-family and duplex properties remains the same as 2002 at around 1 per cent.
- Census data shows that the percentage of empty apartment and condo units in Vancouver is about the same as other large Canadian cities.
The City is taking a leadership role in collecting data and convening discussion with the intent to learn more about why these homes are being left empty and what the potential solutions could be.
The City will continue to strategize with industry experts, academics and senior governments on how we can address empty homes in Vancouver. Working with BC Housing, the results of their study on factors affecting home prices will also help feed into potential solutions. The City has limited tools to enforce actions to discourage empty homes, so partnerships and support from the provincial government will be a critical component of the city’s next steps on this issue. Under the Vancouver Charter, the City does not have the power to mandate occupancy.
The City will also keep working to increase the overall purpose built rental housing stock as this form of housing supply is most likely to be occupied, given consistently low rental market vacancy rates and waitlists for subsidized housing in Vancouver.