Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Vancouver's Empty Homes Not Driving Affordability Crisis, Report Finds

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Vancouver's Empty Homes Not Driving Affordability Crisis, Report Finds

Article excerpt

Report dispels Vancouver's empty homes myth

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VANCOUVER - It's a common complaint in Vancouver's real estate market: investors are buying homes and letting them sit empty, driving up housing prices and leaving some neighbourhoods nearly abandoned.

Not true, says a new city-led study.

"There was no apparent correlation between the house price inflation as opposed to the empty homes that we have," Mukhtar Latif, the city's chief housing officer, said Tuesday.

The landmark study found that Vancouver's non-occupancy rate, at nearly five per cent, was in line with other big cities and has remained flat since 2002. Housing prices have skyrocketed during the same period, suggesting another factor is driving the increase.

Ecotagious Inc. analyzed the energy consumption of 225,000 homes over a 12-year period and determined that 10,800 of them were vacant in 2014. The vast majority of empty homes were condominiums, which had a vacancy rate of 12.5 per cent, while the rate for rental units was close to zero.

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

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

Robertson acknowledged the city has few tools to tackle the problem. The power to create a mandatory registry for vacant units or to raise property taxes on empty homes rests with the province.

Council authorized the mayor to write Premier Christy Clark to repeat a request made in 2015 for the "legal tools to track property ownership and ensure timely occupancy of empty units."

The Finance Ministry said it welcomes efforts to gather information about the factors that influence housing prices in Vancouver. The recent provincial budget included plans to collect citizenship information from buyers and to stimulate new housing supply, it said. …

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