A recent study by BTAworks shows that the common perception of a large number of empty condos in the downtown core is false (unless you consider thousands of empty condos to be a large number).
There has been much public grumbling over the years, with people blaming foreign-owned, empty condos for contributing to the city’s exceptionally tight housing market. Last fall, when Gregor Robertson was campaigning for the mayor’s job, which he eventually won, he briefly suggested the city should consider a speculator tax on empty condos to force owners to either use them for housing or sell them.
But the research done by urban planner Andrew Yan for BTAworks showed only 5.5 per cent of condos, in a representative sample of 2,400 units in 13 buildings, showed electricity use below 75 Kw a month. That kilowatt usage is considered a threshold indicating a unit is vacant, because it’s an amount so low that it would indicate that only enough power to maintain a refrigerator was used. When the threshold was upped to 100 Kw, it indicated a vacancy rate of 8.5 per cent.
It would seem that a large number of those condos are ‘investor owned’. I wonder how many of them were purchased back when you could actually make money on that investment?
Mr. Yan’s research showed that the vast majority of the condo units are lived in, although at least half are owned by investors and rented out. The statistics from homeowner grants and B.C. Assessment Authority information indicated anywhere from 52 to 61 per cent of downtown condos are investor-owned.
The study also showed that of the investors who rent them out, few were from outside Canada: Eight-seven per cent of the units were owned by investors from Canada and half of those Canadian investors were from the Lower Mainland.
Full article is in the Globe and Mail and wraps up with a point about how recent building and investment styles pose a risk to the local economy.
Mr. Heeney, who is also a member of the Vancouver Economic Development Commission, said the reality of Vancouver’s economy is that it is made up of small-scale entrepreneurs and lacks big head-office-style businesses.
The people who work in those start-ups need the kinds of places to live that they’re not finding, which is inhibiting the city’s economic development, he said.
Update: Andrew Yan of Bing Thom Architects sent in this PDF press release from the study which includes some other findings including this one:
A family with one child in the City of Vancouver earning the median income of $75,000 a year would have great difficulty in finding and paying for a condo bigger than one bedroom, even if condo prices were to fall 25 percent below 2008 assessment levels.