A memo from the City of Vancouver's chief housing officer lays out several reasons why housing is being left empty in the city
Mukhtar Latif's message to the mayor, council, and senior city staff also states that the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency is working with communications staff and community groups "to develop a digital site where the public can report vacant homes in a coherent fashion".
This would enable city officials to "potentially match it up with BC Hydro data".
Latif's memo lists the following factors behind why homes are being left empty:
• Development timing (housing units that are vacant prior to demolition or following new construction pending sale and initial occupation).
• Property is in the process of being rented or sold.
• Property has been vacated in anticipation of being renovated.
• "Flipping" (housing units that are bought, renovated, and sold in a short period of time, with no real ability for rental prior to sale).
• Domestic investment property—pending decision whether to rent or leave vacant for a later sale.
• Hoteling (owner works in the city but has a long commute so has purchased a property to reside in during the week and is in primary residence at other times).
• Sabbatical/Snowbirds (through work, retirement or other reasons, owner is travelling or working abroad).
• Owner is in hospital or in care.
Latif states that "this list is not meant to be exhaustive."
He also mentions that the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency has issued a request for proposals to find a consultant to further investigate this issue.
"We have had difficulty in identifying data sources that can provide the exact numbers of vacant single family homes, length of time properties are being left vacant and reasons for why they are vacant," Latif writes.
He adds that the city is in discussion with the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is "in a similar position".
"We have identified BC Hydro data as a potential source of information for single family homes that are vacant," Latif notes. "This data will not provide cause but will establish the denominator of homes which appear to be vacant for prolonged periods of time."
Urban Futures determined in 2011 that 6.7 percent of condos and purpose-built rental units were vacant in Vancouver.
In 2009, Bing Thom Architects urban planner Andy Yan concluded that 5.8 percent of Vancouver condos were "dark". He relied on B.C. Hydro data to reach this conclusion.