More than one-third of Metro Vancouver condos aren’t occupied by owners

Analysis by SFU’s Andy Yan looks at new Canadian housing statistics

Thirty-seven per cent of Metro Vancouver condos are "not owner-occupied," according to the latest analysis by Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s city program. Yan looked at new figures from the Canadian Housing Statistics Program published June 11.

The percentage of not-owner occupied condos hits 46 per cent in the city of Vancouver and 49 per cent in Electoral Area A where the University of B.C. is located.

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While the percentages are particularly notable in Vancouver and Electoral Area A/UBC, Yan said they also reveal how important condos-as-investment-units are in other municipalities throughout the region.

In Richmond, 37 per cent of condos are not-owner occupied, in Coquitlam it’s 36 per cent, in Surrey it’s 35 per cent, in Burnaby it’s 33 per cent and in Port Moody and the City of North Vancouver it's 31 per cent. For comparison, in the city of Toronto, it's 38 per cent, which is markedly lower than the city of Vancouver.

Courtesy of Andy Yan, director of SFU's city program
Courtesy of Andy Yan, director of SFU's city program

A property is deemed “not owner-occupied” when none of the owners on the property title declares it as their usual residence, according to tax data or other administration data. The property may be rented out or used as a secondary property by its owners, such as a pied-a-terre or a cottage, or it may be vacant.

A property is classified as “owner-occupied” when at least one owner on the property title declares the property as their usual residence.

“The big take on this [data] is the role of units that are not owner-occupied — a.k.a. investments,” Yan said. “How much that drives, particularly the condominium market, in Metropolitan Vancouver.”

While some of the condos may be seasonally occupied or empty, Yan said the good news is that some are rented out.

The statistics, he added, also point to the importance of regulating short-term rentals.

Yan was surprised Vancouver’s city-wide figure for non-owner-occupied condos has grown to 46 per cent.

He noted it’s the 10th anniversary of the empty-condo study he did with BTAworks in 2009, which found that about 52 per cent of downtown condos were investor-owned. A City of Vancouver report, which was published a couple months after that study, revealed the city-wide figure at that time was about 35 per cent.

“So things became progressively worse, and we knew [about it] 10 years ago,” he said.

“It illustrates the types of demands that are in Vancouver housing and really goes into the question of what’s the priority in demand that our housing system needs to meet — investments versus, say, someone who’s trying to set their roots in the city, not to mention the importance of actually having an affordable purpose-built rental stock as opposed to one that’s dependant on this kind of fragmented, precarious condominium-as-rental system.”

Meanwhile, the median assessment value of owner-occupied condominiums in Vancouver is $696,000 compared with $650,000 for non-owner-occupied condos.

When it comes to single-detached homes in the region, just 15 per cent are not owner occupied. In Vancouver, 19 per cent of detached houses are not owner occupied, a figure that jumps to 47 per cent in Electoral Area A/UBC.

Courtesy of Andy Yan, director of SFU's city program
Courtesy of Andy Yan, director of SFU's city program

Looking at all residential property types — single-detached homes and condominiums — 23 per cent are not-owner occupied in Metro Vancouver.

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