Vancouver real estate’s rapid rise has lead to a massive amount of speculation. Consequently every data point about the use of homes is under extra scrutiny. So when Statistics Canada released the first set of Census 2016 data, it’s no surprise urban planners scrambled to pull insights from it. The most interesting piece was in the Vancouver Sun, where urban planner Andy Yan of BC’s Simon Fraser University extracted the number of underused homes in Metro Vancouver. As interesting as it was, we thought someone might be able to extract a few more insights by visualizing this down to the smallest data point.
How Did You Get That Data?
Empty and underutilized homes have a different definition from pretty much every analyst. We got to our data by taking Statistics Canada’s Occupied by usual residents measure (i.e. someone’s primary home), then subtracting that number from the total number of private dwellings. It’s not a perfect science, but short of hiring someone to stand outside of every home for a year, we’re probably not going to get more accurate data. Looking at these numbers helps to determine if the trend is growing, shrinking or just plain ole’ stagnant. It also helps to pinpoint areas of the city that might need a second look.
If you’re not a government data nerd (or one of the government employees that emailed us to ask what all this means), these are private homes where a person or group of persons are not permanently residing. This also excludes people that were temporarily absent for the Census. Too dry? The TL;DR version is, they are homes that are not occupied or not someone’s primary residence.
Unoccupied units across Metro Vancouver were rising at a very quick rate. 2016 saw a change of +14% over the previous 5 years. This works out to 66,719 homes – around 6.5% of all homes in the Metro area. To contrast this, the region experienced a population increase of 6.5%. Yes, Metro’s population is booming, but it’s doing so at a rate that’s slower than the growth of regularly unoccupied homes.
City of Vancouver
The City of Vancouver did have the largest concentration of homes not regularly occupied – although that’s not a surprise if you live there. Yan counted 25,502 unoccupied units in Vancouver, which represented 38% of the total homes regularly unoccupied for Metro Vancouver in 2016. Census data does use a different method than the City of Vancouver did, which is why the city’s study “only” found 10,800. The city used utilities to measure usage at the residence, so if the home was being rented out as an AirBnB, or if the house was being used for a month – it wasn’t counted as unoccupied. It’s a hotly debated issue if this is a problem, but anyway you slice it that’s a lot of homes for a city with such low rental inventory.
Millennials are often told to accept that times are changing, and things are going to get rough. What if people wealthy enough to own a second home were told that times were changing, and the use of an extra home at your leisure should be taxed at a premium rate. Wouldn’t that be weird?