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Urban Think Tank Dismisses Vacant Home Fears

Joannah Connolly
September 26, 2014

An influential urban housing analytics company has weighed in on the current hot debate over vacant properties in Vancouver, suggesting that reports of vacancies have been significantly exaggerated.

The issue has hit the headlines in recent weeks over COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong’s proposal to tax owners of vacant homes in order to raise money for affordable housing and forced more owners to rent out their properties.

However, in a September 26 press release, Urban Futures wrote: “With recent headlines speculating on the share of the City’ unoccupied housing stock ranging between 25 and 50 per cent, we thought it was time to resend a link to a report that examines the scale of unoccupied units throughout the region’s municipalities and how we compared to other major metropolitan regions in Canada. Using a tabulation of Statistics Canada’s 2011 Census count data … we found that the share of unoccupied units in the region, at five per cent of the dwelling stock, fell just about spot on the national average.

“Further to this, in considering the data for the City of Vancouver, we found that the share of units unoccupied in the City, at five per cent, was only marginally above the region-wide average.”

The release went on to say, “Unfortunately, discussions around this issue have suffered from, at best, misrepresentation of the available data to consider the issue. At worst they are further entrenching misconceptions about housing occupancy in the region. Either way, if there is going to be a meaningful discussion about housing, and meaningful policy responses to particular issues or trends that we as residents of the region, feel need attention, it is necessary to have a good understanding of what data are available and what they mean before we draw any conclusions from them.”

Listen below to editor Joannah Connolly discussing the flaws in Wong’s taxation proposal on CKNW’s Sean Leslie Show on September 21.

Joannah Connolly
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.