A year ago, Vancouver housing researcher Andrew Yan created a minor uproar when he revealed that almost 25 percent of condos in the downtown were either empty or occupied by nonresidents for only part of the year.
Yan, who works with BTAworks—the research arm of Bing Thom Architects—presented his conclusions at an SFU Woodward’s forum on foreign investment in Vancouver’s real-estate market.
The City of Vancouver hasn’t taken any action since Yan released this information. But in the United Kingdom, Islington London borough council is considering imposing fines of up to $109,800 (£60,000) on investors who buy new homes and leave them empty.
“The council is proposing to place the responsibility for demonstrating occupancy on the owners of individual dwellings to which the new planning obligation will apply,” states a discussion paper on the Islington government website. “This could be via submission of evidence such as utility bills on request from the council where it is suspected that properties are left unoccupied.”
A news release on the borough’s website defines so-called buy-to-leave residences as “new homes that are sold as investments, often marketed off-plan overseas, and left to stand empty”.
Up to half the residences in new developments in one district, EC1, are not occupied by people on the electoral roll.
“The council has said that new homes sitting empty represent ‘wasted’ supply, making no contribution to meeting Islington’s need for new places for people to live,” the news release states.
The borough is inviting comments from the public until April 14. Meanwhile, the discussion paper states that overseas buyers paying cash “are causing a ripple of price inflation spreading throughout London”.
It also asks: “Do you agree with Islington Council’s intention to require owners of properties which are kept unoccupied to make a financial contribution to the council, which would be used to deliver affordable housing elsewhere in the borough?”