March 11, 2016
Vacant homes report makes no inroads into City’s efforts to find reason for Vancouver’s soaring house prices
The proportion of vacant homes in the City of Vancouver is stable at only 4.8 per cent, according to BC Hydro usage data compiled on behalf of the City of Vancouver and presented in a report to council March 8.
This is slightly less than the 4.9 per cent of homes in the city that were unoccupied in 2002, according to Ecotagious, the company that compiled Empty Homes Research Study.
The report said that the city’s “non-occupancy rate is consistent with and tracks the non-occupancy rate for the rest of the Greater Vancouver Regional District.”
It added, “The number of non-occupied housing units [in the City of Vancouver (CoV)] has grown from 8,400 in 2002 to 10,800 in 2014. This increase has been driven entirely from the growth in the overall housing stock.”
The new report lends weight to the Urban Futures report issued in September 2014, which described fears over Vancouver home vacancies as "much ado about nothing."
Ecotagious found that multi-family units were much more likely than detached homes and townhomes to be left unoccupied, and 90 per cent of the empty homes were condos and apartments. It said, “Apartments, which represent 60 per cent of CoV’s residential housing mix, are driving non-occupancy in the city, at 7.2 per cent in 2014.” This was broken down further, with condo non-occupancy rates at 12.5 per cent while rental apartment vacancies were around 0.5 per cent.
The report went on to say, “Single-family and duplex housing units show low and relatively stable non-occupancy rates of 1 per cent between 2002 and 2014.”
A property was classified as not occupied in any given month if its hydro use showed little variability for 25 or more days that month. If a home was unoccupied for four months during the “non-heating season” of August and September and the following June and July in the study period, it was deemed empty for a full year.
Ecotagious broke down the results by different home types and five City of Vancouver neighbourhoods: Downtown peninsula, North-West Vancouver (essentially the West Side); South-West Vancouver; South-East Vancouver; and North-East Vancouver.
The highest non-occupancy rate was found to be on Vancouver’s West Side at 7.4 per cent. This was made up of condo-apartment vacancies of 9.4 per cent, and single-family home vacancies of 1.4 per cent. The next highest neighbourhood was the Downtown peninsula at 6 per cent, almost entirely made up of multi-family unit vacancies.
The report added, “All five of the city geographic sectors analyzed show similar rates of non-occupancy by housing type, with no significant divergence over time, with the exception of the Downtown Peninsula, which has seen a drop in non-occupancy from 6.9 per cent in 2002 to 6.0 per cent in 2014.”
In his presentation to the City of Vancouver at its March 8 meeting, housing planner Matthew Bourke pointed out that although the proportion of vacant homes remains flat, the number of units is rising, and that these homes could be rented out to help boost the limited rental stock.
Bourke added that the City will continue to monitor vacant homes, repeating the study every three years.
To read the full report, click here.