By Rohana Rezel
The number of empty homes in Vancouver city is estimated to have crossed the 30,000 mark in 2020, according to our most recent estimate based on census data published by Statistics Canada, and housing completion data published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
There were 25,502 private dwellings unoccupied or occupied by temporary residents in the Vancouver city in 2016, according to the 2016 census1. That represents an increase of 12,617 from the 2001 census. In the same period, the number of private dwelling units increased by 60,438. That means in the 15 years between 2001 and 2016, every one in five (20.87%) new homes has been empty or temporarily occupied.
24,851 new dwellings were completed in Vancouver city since 2016, according to CMHC data on housing starts, completions and units under construction2. Assuming the empty home rate for new dwellings remained at 28.87% as with the 15 years prior, we estimate 5,187 of the dwellings added since 2016 to be empty or temporarily occupied this year.
That means an estimated 30,039 out of the 334,269 private dwellings in Vancouver are unoccupied or occupied by temporary residents.
That number should surprise nobody in Vancouver. “Never lived in” is often used as a selling point, especially for luxury condo units marketed to overseas buyers by developers like Westbank3.
Various towers at Marine Gateway today around 8:30 pm.
— Justin (@jhwfung) March 18, 2020
There are some limitations to our study.
First, the Census data is for the census day, which, in 2016, fell in May. The CMHC data is for the calendar year. Between 2011 and 2016, the census showed an increase of 22,678 dwelling units. CMHC reported completion of 21,737 homes. This represents a discrepancy of 4.1%.
Second, since 2016, new taxes have been introduced to tackle the problem of empty homes, both by the Government of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver. Moreover, the city has instituted new bylaws to regulate short-term rentals using platforms such as Airbnb. These measures may have reduced the rate at which new homes are left empty.
Statistics Canada plans to go ahead with the 2021 census on May 11, and we could expect results a few months later. The number for private dwellings unoccupied or occupied by temporary residents will give us the best indication of whether or not measures aimed at cracking down on speculators who leave homes empty is having an impact.
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