Owners don't live in close to 1 in 4 West Van homes

Almost one-third of City of North Vancouver condos also not occupied by owners

Almost one in four homes in West Vancouver are not occupied by the person who owns them.

That means more people have bought residential homes in West Vancouver as investments – as opposed to places to live – than in most other areas of the Lower Mainland, according Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, who analyzed numbers recently released by the Canadian Housing Statistics Program.

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Yan’s analysis shows 22.8 per cent of people who are the registered owners of single-family homes in West Vancouver don’t live in them as their principal residence. Across the Lower Mainland, there are only a handful of areas with similar percentages of detached homes that aren’t owner occupied, like Bowen Island, at almost 36 per cent, Lions Bay and White Rock at 29 per cent and Belcarra at 25 per cent.

In most areas, the numbers are much smaller – Metro-wide the percentage of non-owner-occupied houses was about 15 per cent. In the City of North Vancouver, 18 per cent of single-family homes aren’t occupied by owners, while in the District of North Vancouver, the number is 11 per cent.

But another statistic that stands out, says Yan, is the median value of the West Vancouver homes that the owners don’t live in, at about $3.2 million.

When the homes the owners don’t live in are also foreign owned (or owned by someone who is not a resident of Canada for tax purposes) – that value is even higher: $4 million. Both those values are higher than the $1.6-million to $1.7-million homes that owners don’t live in elsewhere on the North Shore or around the rest of the Lower Mainland, says Yan.

It raises questions about who – if anyone – is living in those homes the owners don’t occupy, he adds. “That’s a pretty expensive rental.”

West Van non owner map
Map showing percentage of owners who don't live in their condos across areas of Metro Vancouver. Map courtesy Andy Yan, SFU City Program

Across Metro Vancouver as a whole, condos were more far likely to be owned by people who don’t live in them. About 37 per cent of condos are not occupied by owners, while that figure climbs to almost 47 per cent in the City of Vancouver.

On the North Shore, there are fewer owners who aren’t living in their condos, although the numbers are still sizable. In the City of North Vancouver, roughly one in three condos – or 31 per cent – are owned by people who don’t live in them. In the District of North Vancouver, that figure is almost 27 per cent, while in West Vancouver it is about 23 per cent.

Yan said the figures leave a lot of questions unanswered – like whether the non-owner occupied houses and condos are being rented to long-term tenants, offered as short-term rentals or left empty – but add another piece of the puzzle as to how real estate is consumed on the North Shore.

Among the questions left hanging, said Yan, is “When is residential real estate not residential?” and when real estate is being used as an investment, “Should you be taxed at a commercial rate?” In terms of housing policy, the numbers also point to issues like, “How is (housing) being used and who is it for?” he said.

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