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One in Every 10 Vancouver Condos Remain Empty

A recent study by Ecotagious shows that Vancouver condominiums have a 12.5% non-occupancy rate.

A recent study shows that condominiums have a 12.5 per cent non-occupancy rate while only one per cent of single-family homes in Vancouver remain vacant. The city, which is desperate for affordable housing, is said to have around 10,800 empty homes.

This has led to City councillors calling on the provincial government to take steps to help ensure vacant units are filled. These measures could include punitive tax against owners of vacant properties.

The number of vacant homes in Vancouver is not completely out of line with the rest of Metro Vancouver.

For single-family homes, duplexes and row houses, the vacancy rate in Vancouver is only about one per cent, and that rate has been static since 2002, according to the report. However, for the vacancy rate for condominiums and purpose-built rental apartments is 7.2 per cent.

The average of vacant apartments across Canada for census metropolitan areas over 200,000 people was 7 per cent, according to the study. Windsor had the highest vacancy rate at 16.5 per cent, and London came in close with a 13.5 per cent vacancy rate. Quebec had the lowest rates, at 5 per cent, followed by Toronto at 5.4 per cent.

The method used to identify non-occupied houses is to check the electricity used. The house was deemed empty for the given year if the electricity showed little variability for more than 25 days a month and the house was not occupied for each of four “non-heating” months, August, September and the following June and July.

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While this method was good to review houses purchased for investment purposes and left empty, it would miss outhouses used by owners only during the summer and left empty the rest of the year. Some houses which are occasionally rented out on Airbnb would also not be targeted.

House owners and renters have felt for years that investors buying homes and keeping them empty has cut down supply, thus driving up prices.

In a letter to Premier Christy Clark, Mayor Gregor Robertson had suggested a series of measures, including amendments to the Vancouver Charter and the Community Charter, to strengthen the ability of municipalities to ensure vacant units are filled.

Some experts believe Vancouver cannot reduce the number of empty homes without help from the province because the Vancouver Charter does not allow the council to mandate occupancy.

“If council did want to take action on this issue, it would absolutely require that we work with senior government,” Matthew Bourke, the lead on the empty homes report said.

While we await further action on this, it remains to be seen whether taxing empty homes will solve Vancouver’s affordable housing issues.