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City releases comprehensive study on empty homes

March 8 2016

Rowhouses in Vancouver

Responding to public concerns that empty homes could be impacting housing affordability and neighbourhood vibrancy, City of Vancouver staff presented the findings of a comprehensive study on unoccupied homes to Council this morning.

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 we remain concerned about the impact on the already-limited supply of rental housing. 

View the staff presentation to Council PDF file (3 MB)

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. 

Findings

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% for all housing types.
  • 10,800 homes out of the 225,000 studied were empty for one year or more.
  • 90% of the empty homes were condos and apartments.
  • The percentage of empty single-family and duplex properties remains the same as 2002 at around 1%.
  • Census data shows that the percentage of empty apartment and condo units in Vancouver is about the same as other large Canadian cities.

Read the study report on empty homes PDF file (1 MB)

Our next steps

We are 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.

We 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.

We have limited tools to enforce actions to discourage empty homes, so partnerships and support from the provincial government will be a critical component of our next steps on this issue. Under the Vancouver Charter, we do not have the power to mandate occupancy.

We 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.

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