Tomorrow we could begin to get an idea of how many vacant homes there are in the city and what needs to be done about it.
Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs says a report on empty homes being presented to the city should help quantify the problem in order to determine how to address it.
“Well we need to know how long units are empty and if they are empty. I don’t know if this report will tell us why they are empty. There are legitimate reasons for some units to be empty. Then I think once we have a better handle on those facts we will be able to develop some policy options.”
He says he is sure the report will spur debate about what is already a hot topic, and raise key questions about how government should respond.
“There is a point at which people are simply with holding units from the market and why are they doing so? I don’t know. These are questions you have to get at. Some jurisdictions the government will wait for two years before it starts to push on someone to make use of the home. Maybe that is too long maybe that is the right number here.”
Stemming from that, he says he hopes the provincial government will move swiftly to act on what ever policy the city comes up with in response to the report.
“The public is frustrated to think that there is enough homes out there to perhaps make a dent in the cost of housing by adding to the supply but those homes are being held back just for speculation. I think that is what offends people and that is where I think we are going to want to take action.”
The question of how many vacant homes and condos there are in Vancouver has been a long simmering issue in the debate over the city’s real estate market.
Little research has been done on the topic, but a 2013 studyby UBC/ Bing Thom Architects planner Andy Yan using B.C. Hydro data estimated up to 22% of condos in some downtown neighbourhoods were unoccupied most of the year.
The question has sparked outage in some neighbuorhoods, and provided fodder for blogs like Beautiful Empty Homes of Vancouver, which tracks vacant houses in the city.
Last spring in a bid to create its own database of empty houses, the city created a website to allow residents to report suspected unoccupied units.
This week’s move comes as a committee also looks into what has been dubbed shadow flipping by realtors, which could be driving up prices.
LISTEN: ‘Beautiful Empty Homes of Vancouver’ contributor James MacDonald speaks with Jon McComb in 2014
With files from Simon Little