A new report finally quantifies how many homes in Vancouver are sitting empty.
The empty homes report by Ecotagious determined that there were 10,800 vacant homes in the city, the highest concentration running along the False Creek to Kitsilano area.
Rental vacancy rate could be increased to 10%
Also, the vast majority – 90% – are apartments or condos.
The report authors say if the vacant homes in the city were put on the rental market, it would increase Vancouver’s rental rate from its current zero to 10%.
Report findings are “low”
Ecotagious CEO Bruce Townson says the report finding was “conservative.”
“We may be 20-percent low. Somewhere between 10,800 and another 20% higher.”
Vancouver’s Chief Housing Officer Mukhtar Latif says senior levels of government must be involved in finding solutions.
“We have done some initial analysis. We have first of all have got to find out reasons why those homes are empty so that we can then put in policy to address those concerns. We have got a meeting with a number of experts to help advise us and we will be coming back to council with further recommendations about what those next steps will be.”
We know now how many but we still don’t know why
Vancouver’s Chief Housing Officer Mukhtar Latif says this report did not touch on who owns the empty units or why they are vacant.
“The empty homes are separate from foreign ownership. That is just one of the many reasons why homes could be empty. That is a study that BC Housing is currently undertaking. Around the ownership piece there is no data we have available to do that.”
Latif says the empty home rate in Vancouver is in line with the larger Metro region and other cities of similar size.
Mayor wants province to act on report
The mayor of Vancouver is calling for immediate action from the province.
Gregor Robertson will write the Premier asking for the powers the city needs to track and address vacant homes.
“Hopefully the province takes action urgently seeing this data, and being able to take steps. For example, like ensuring strata’s can not ban rentals. That’s an easy step if strata’s can’t do that, and people can rent their units in their buildings, then we can have a big new supply of rental housing across the region.”
Robertson says the number of empty homes is increasing every year.
“It is important to note the percentage has been flat but the numbers have been going up. We are seeing hundreds of new empty homes every year. About 2,400 empty homes since 2002 additional. It has been going up every year and that is something that we need to address it is too many.”
Condominium Homeowners Association warns against ban on strata rentals
Tony Gioventu with the Condominium Homeowners Association of BC says it’s not an issue for new strata buildings, which — for the most part — already ban rental restrictions.
But it puts older strata corporations in a tough position…
“Landlords or owners of strata lots will put in tenants and they abandon the tenants, and the strata corporation is left with all the problems.”
Gioventu says many stratas would want the power to evict those problem tenants.
He adds he’s not sure changes would even solve the empty condo problem – because Gioventu believes most of the empty units are in newer buildings.
Premier says they will work with the City
The Premier isn’t making any promises yet but is saying her government will work with the city of Vancouver to address empty homes issue.
Christy Clark says each level of government can help with solutions.
The city with zoning and her government with tax and regulatory changes.
“We have heard a range of different options and a range of different ideas a lot of which are good. The ministry of finance is right now and has been for the last little while really drilling down to understand which of the solutions that have come forward are going to be the best ones because we want to come up with a solution that will help solve the problem.”
Clark says she will read the report in full later today but is concerned with the empty homes issue in Vancouver.
Data gleaned from BC Hydro
The report used smart meter data from B.C. Hydro to reach a conservative conclusion on the number of empty homes in Vancouver.
The data excludes some housing types using common smart meters – like basement suites.
The housing vacancy rate in Metro Vancouver from the data was 4.8%.
This is only about 1 to 1.5% higher than the Metro Vancouver average.
Robertson says BC Hydro provided a great service with the data and he wants to make sure it keeps coming to keep tracking empty homes.
“We need to make sure that, that data continues to flow. We need to have access to that information. Respecting the privacy laws obviously. We need to make sure we can track the status of this going forward. It is a little surprising that it has taken so long over all these years to actually get the numbers. Great that we have them thanks to BC Hydro and we will look forward to that being a strong collaberation going forward to track the numbers.”
The empty homes report found 90-percent of all of the empty homes in Vancouver were condos or apartments.
Findings debunk the theory of a correlation between prices increases and empty homes
Read the full report below:
Response from the Condominium Home Owners Association
The Condominium Homeowners Association says there needs to be a bit more thought before changes are made to ban rental restrictions in buildings.
It’s something Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is pushing, as a way of dealing with a staggering number of empty condos in the city.
But CHOA Executive Director Tony Gioventu says stratas don’t have the power to deal with problem tenants.
“Strata corporations end up paying the price for landlords who do not care for their tenants, who do not deal with their tenant issues, and that’s a problem for some in the strata community.”
Gioventu adds he’s not even sure a ban would deal with the problem of empty condos.
He says he believes most vacant units are in newer buildings, most of which already do not allow rental restrictions.
Meanwhile, one Vancouver Lawyer who specializes in Strata Law is also warning changes to rental rules may be hard to get off the drawing board.
An uphill battle., that’s how Vivienne Stewart of Railtown Law describes any move to throw out B.C.’s strata rental restrictions.
Stewart says many owners fear renters will drive down property values and would go to the province with significant concerns.
“How our strata corporation is going to be not just operated but how it’s going to be treated. How do we protect our value if it’s going to be open season on rental.”
Stewart says rental restrictions are the norm in most of the city’s stratas, meaning a potentially massive stumbling block for anyone looking to scrap the policy.