Vancouver’s Detached Homes Are Rapidly Disappearing

Vancouver’s Detached Homes Are Disappearing

The number of single family detached homes is rapidly declining in Vancouver. According to the latest Census 2016 numbers from Statistics Canada, more families are moving into multi-family units such as apartments buildings and condos. While the trend is consistent across Canada, Vancouver is one of the few cities where the actual number of single-detached homes is declining, as more get snatched up for land-assemblies.

Total Number of Homes Increased

The total number of homes in Vancouver CMA grew, which isn’t much of a surprise considering the population is growing. The total number of homes rose to 2,135,910, a 7.8% increase from the 2011 Census. To contrast, the population grew to 2.463 million people, a 6.5% increase during the same period. This either means there’s a major change to the structure of families (less people in more homes), or homes are being used as secondary residences.

Detached Homes Are Declining

The biggest statistical loser was the detached home in Vancouver, which saw prices soar at the height of the market last year. In 2016, 282,355 families occupied detached units, a decline of 6.23% from the 2011 Census. The detached decline is not something observed in cities like Toronto, where density is 17% higher. Its unclear if less people live in detached units as more detached homes are now a part of land assemblies waiting to be developed.

In case you aren’t up on your developer lingo, a land assembly is when developers purchase multiple plots of land in one area to create a single site. Currently there are quite a few Vancouver detached houses being sold in groups to form these land assemblies.

High-Rise Apartments Increase

Households are rapidly adopting high-rise living in the city. Census numbers show 160,060 families were in high-rise buildings, aka buildings with more than 5 stories. That’s a massive 23.83% increase from 2011. Love it or not, more Vancouverites are going to have to get use to high-rise living.

Vancouver Homes By Type (2011-2016)

Source: Statistics Canada.

Low-Rise Apartments Increase

The second largest segment of housing is actually low-rise apartments, which have less than five stories. 242,205 Vancouver Census households were located in these, which is a 5.95% increase from 2011. Vancouver has notoriously tight zoning rules so we can probably expect this trend to continue to rise.

Vancouver Change In Home Types (2011-2016)

Source: Statistics Canada.

As more properties are being purchased for land assembly deals, there’s been an premium placed on single family homes, which means the trend of multi-unit housing will likely continue. The real question is, how much more of a premium will people be willing to pay, and will they be able to recoup the value if the market changes?

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Photo via Paul Joseph.



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  • Reply
    Van Developer 7 years ago

    Out with the old, in with the new. No point in dwelling on a necessary step in the city’s future.

  • Reply
    Dave 7 years ago

    It’s sad to watch all of these homes disappear. The reason people love Vancouver is the small town feel. Soon it’ll just be a warehouse for mid-paying jobs. A white collared factory where you pay for the privilege of living in.

  • Reply
    Kelly C 7 years ago

    Glad to see that low-rise apartment buildings are being utilized so much. Not in love with them, but they feel much less sterile than those monstrosities in False Creek.

  • Reply
    Andy 7 years ago

    There’s no problem with the city modernizing, and it really should be expected that high-rise developments will take over. The city’s growing, and resisting the growth is just plain dumb. We can’t have a world class city, with small time housing plans.

  • Reply
    Franklin 7 years ago

    I’ve been saying this for a year before Stats Can came out with the results and that this is causing prices to rise. Supply of single detached housing is shrinking because of land assembly. Vancouver city hall is thinking it’s increasing overall supply by allowing more multifamily development (which it is), it’s also increasing the prices of detached houses. There’s been a lot of talk of what’s causing bidding wars, but I haven’t seen anyone consider if you just sold your house (usually on a busy street) for $1M over market value to a developer, you now have an extra $1M to go in a bidding war to buy your next house. People that grew up in a house tend to want to live in a house and people that grew up in a condo tend to want to live in a condo. I’ve seen entire blocks of houses (Boundary and Kingsway), some of them in perfectly good condition, get torn down to build condos. These houses are now gone forever and can never be sold again to anyone that wants to live in a house. Before realtors started getting into land assembly, developers had to slowly buy 1 house at a time, usually at market prices (not hyper-inflated prices) and keep them rented for years until they had assembled what they needed. Because this took years, the market could absorb the changes. In the last decade, City Hall has been quietly rezoning nearly every neighbourhood in Vancouver for multifamily dwellings to the benefit of developers. They do it under the guise that creating more supply will control the rising prices. The result has been the opposite. A 7.8% increase in number of homes but only a 6.5% increase in population! This means we’re in an oversupply situation but prices keep going up? I believe the extra 1.3% of housing is being bought by investors. At the first sign of a downturn, investors will dump their holdings, while resident owners usually stay put. IMHO as a majority of these new condos get completed in the next 2-3 years people are going to wake up to this oversupply and the condo market will fall, but we’ll never get those single family homes back. Sad.

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