City of Vancouver report reveals 25,495 homes either empty or used by temporary and foreign residents

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      The number of homes in Vancouver that are either vacant or occupied by temporary and foreign residents almost doubled in the last 15 years.

      A City of Vancouver staff report indicates that there were 25,495 dwelling units that fell under these categories in 2016.

      The figure represents a 98 percent increase from the 2001 level of 12,885 homes that were similarly situated.

      The report was written by Gil Kelley, general manager of planning, urban design, and sustainability.

      The report, which primarily deals with suggested amendments to the vacancy tax bylaw, is included in agenda Wednesday (June 28) by council.

      Kelley cited Statistics Canada data taken on Census day on May 10, 2016, which showed that 21,820 homes were empty, and 3,675 homes were used by temporary and foreign residents, for a total of 25,495.

      Out of the 25,495 homes, 60 percent or 15,280 were apartment units.

      The report cited a Statistics Canada definition that considers a dwelling to be unoccupied if it satisfies conditions for year-round occupancy, but had one residing in it on Census day.

      A person is deemed a temporary resident if the individual living at the home on Census day has a usual place of residence elsewhere in Canada.

      A foreign resident is one whose usual place of residence is outside Canada.

      According to the staff report, the number of homes that are either empty or used by temporary and foreign residents has been increasing since 2001.

      From the 2001 figure of 12,885, the number rose to 20,590 in 2006. In 2011, the figure was pegged at 22,170.


      On November 16, 2016, Vancouver city council approved the empty homes tax and the vacancy tax bylaw.

      The empty homes tax imposes a levy of one percent of the assessed value of unoccupied or under-utilized properties.

      The first tax year is 2017, and vacant homes that are not rented for at least six continuous months are subject to the levy.

      In his report, Kelley wrote that many owners may have changed the status of their properties during the first half of 2017 in response to the tax.

      “The census data from May 2016, would not reflect these recent changes in owner behaviour,” Kelley stated.

      Kelley also cited results of a survey conducted by the city last fall on why owners are not renting out their homes.

      Fifty-seven percent of responses indicated that the home was not rented because it was used occasionally by owners themselves or their friends and family.

      Twenty-two percent of the responses indicated that strata rental restrictions prevented a home from being rented out.