Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency investigates factors behind homes being left empty

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      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.

      • Probate.

      • 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.

      Comments

      13 Comments

      Bob's Your Uncle

      Apr 26, 2015 at 9:37pm

      How did the memo get to media, Charlie? Was it an official media release, leaked from insiders, or shared only with certain individuals? Also, can you actually share the memo online?

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      Dr. Zen

      Apr 26, 2015 at 10:01pm

      ... and the number 1 reason that was unmentioned...

      foreigners laundering and parking millions of dollars worth of assets to gain citizenship and a hedge against seizure of said assets in their home country

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      Excellent Plan

      Apr 26, 2015 at 10:27pm

      Older folks on fixed incomes can't afford the ever increasing property tax. They're selling and moving out. Investors, foreign and domestic, can afford the tax. They're buying and not moving in. So let's increase property taxes again so Gregor can have more of this "research" done. That'll fix it.

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      Curmudgeon

      Apr 27, 2015 at 3:02am

      "We have identified BC Hydro data as a potential source of information for single family homes that are vacant."

      Big brother is watching. If it's my property why can't I leave it vacant? Scary stuff.

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      NChernen

      Apr 27, 2015 at 9:04am

      Aftet repeated requests to VAHA's Latif, as well as the City Manager, and Mayor Robertson, no one has provided any information as to who was selected for the VAHA Board of Directors! They call for interested individuals was put out in September 2014. Have they not formed their board yet? VAHA made a $10 million land purchase for "affordable housing" on South West Marine Drive last month. Was this done without a board? VAHA has also put out a call for interested "preferred partners" for the development of "social housing". Will these "partners" be chosen without a board or any kind of council oversight? Have these "partners" been chosen? By what criteria? Who are they? Why does the city refuse to provide ANY information about these key issues of VAHA? Maybe you can find out Charlie????

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      Jennifer Fox

      Apr 27, 2015 at 9:44am

      Sure, in an ideal world you should have the right to buy a property and leave it vacant but sad to say we no longer live in an ideal world. This is not 1950s Canada. It's time to adapt to change. Homelessness is a major problem and even housing affordability for the middle-class population is at a crisis point in Vancouver. Young talented people are leaving the city in droves. The implications of that are far reaching. Yet all of this is trumped by peoples "rights" to use property as investments??? Policy adaptations are needed yet nobody at any level of government has offered solutions of any kind. It's time to start the dialogues before things get even worse.

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      This is how it happens

      Apr 27, 2015 at 11:31am

      This is how it happens.

      "He relied on B.C. Hydro data to reach this conclusion."

      Well now, how did he get his hands on BC Hydro data? Is my electric bill public information? is it saleable on the open market ?

      My electric bill, my time of day use, whether I'm home or not. This stuff is nobody's business but MINE unless I say so. BC HYdro handing out my information is the equivalent of SURVEILLANCE, and it has no business in the houses of citizens except as a dumb power meter.

      Which brings us to Smart Meterrs. Smart Meter hardware capability goes far beyond what BC Hydro will admit to. Certainly far beyond what it will publicize.

      Your Smart Meter, and you can verify this by walking up to it, copying down the manufacturer and model number, then looking that unit up on the manufacturers website. What you will find is that YOUR Smart Meter is Zigbee capable. What the means is that BC Hydro, although denying it has such plans, actually paid extra to have the capability to network the Smart Meter with modern home appliances that are increasingly being sold Zigbee capable. What would that allow Hydro to do? Well for one, it can tell not only what your power draw is, but what device is drawing it. It can allow Hydro to control appliances in your house as well. For example, the thermostat. Hydro could turn down your zigbee capable thermostat. This is old tech in the industrial world. Well you might think that is a good thing, but think again. Not just monitoring of your appliances, but CONTROL of your appliances means the electric utiility can deny service to you on an APPLIANCE by APPLIANCE basis. ie. involuntary rationing, only dry your clothes during Big Brother approved hours, unless you PAY EXTRA.

      Make no mistake. This VIsion Vancouver crowd is not looking out for your personal liberty. It is driven by zealotry and privacy is not important as this stupid 'directory for thieves website' idea proves.

      Now I am not saying

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      Let's remember...

      Apr 27, 2015 at 12:20pm

      West Vancouver waterfront is a lovely place to live but it isnt a right. If you're homeless on Bellevue and because it is too expensive, then you do have the right to live elsewhere that is not out of your range.

      There ARE options. You might not be able to live in your PREFERRED location.. but there are affordable locations.

      Also.. the country is empty. Young, talented people that are 'leaving in droves' are the ones that will fill the country up. It isn't a bad thing. It's an inconvenient thing.

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      Jolly P

      Apr 27, 2015 at 1:49pm

      There's a vacant house (3 suites) on the corner of 10th & Fraser that's been empty for at least 15 years - drives me crazy everytime I pass by it.

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      Ronnie

      Apr 27, 2015 at 8:39pm

      Isn't it time to set up a Lower Mainland squatter's co-operative that can create a support and information network to utilize this phenomenon to give people a nice, free place to live? If all these houses and condos, etc, are being left empty forever, would it hurt for them to be occupied if the occupants follow good ethics and leave the place in no worse shape than a rotting, mold-gathering sealed property?

      Shit, I bet I could even get hydro set up. And of course, who's to say that isn't a real rental agreement?

      The main drawback would be the potential risk to one's possessions. If it happened on a wide scale, as opposed to the Frances St. squats way back in the day...

      Are people even militant like this anymore?

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