The percentage of vacant homes in Vancouver has remained stable over the past 14 years despite long-standing complaints that investors are buying homes and leaving them empty, according to a new report released this morning to city council.
The report indicates that Vancouver’s vacancy rate was 4.9% in 2002, compared to 4.8% in 2014, which is in line with that of other major Canadian cities.
The vacant housing research report was presented to the board by Matt Bourke, a city housing planner, and Bruce Townson, CEO of Ecotagious, a company that analyzed home energy use.
While the city’s vacancy rate hasn’t changed much over the past 14 years, the authors said the total number of empty dwellings has increased due to growth in Vancouver’s overall housing stock.
Interest in the number of vacant units in Vancouver stems from fears that they will drive up housing costs.
Most empty units are apartments
The study found that more than 90 percent of the city’s 10,800 empty homes were apartments.
Although the report appears to contradict the idea that Vancouver has a serious problem with vacant housing, Mayor Gregor Robertson said the problem was still concerning.
“It is unacceptable that so many homes are left empty at once, so many of our residents are struggling to find suitable accommodation,” Robertson said in a statement.
“Housing must first and foremost be for people, and not be treated as a commodity. “
The city and political analysts have long argued that more data is needed to determine the cause of the region’s hot housing market – an argument with which the provincial government recently said it agreed.
The report surprised observers such as urban planner and architect Michael Geller, who believed it would shed light on what is fueling Vancouver’s buzzing real estate market.
“What the study seems to indicate is that indeed Vancouver is not much different from other municipalities,” said Geller. He added that perhaps the hype from the real estate industry and the media has helped fuel the price hike.
The study looked at 225,000 homes in the city of Vancouver.
The report found that vacancy rates in the city’s southwest – which includes expensive neighborhoods such as Shaughnessy and Kerrisdal – remained stable, falling from 3.6% in 2002 to 3.4% in 2014 .