Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has come out fighting after census figures revealed there could be as many as 25,502 empty homes in the city.
“In a housing crisis, it’s unacceptable for so much housing to be treated as a commodity,” said Robertson in a statement. “Housing is for homes first, and as investments second.”
The census figures, released on Wednesday, counted 309,418 private dwellings in Vancouver in 2016 – but only 283,916 of those were occupied by usual residents.
“Occupied by usual residents” refers to a home where people live permanently.
The 25,502 not included in that number were occupied by people who usually live outside Canada on the day of the census or were totally unoccupied.
By comparison, the 2011 census counted 286,742 private dwellings in Vancouver, with only 264,573 of those occupied by usual residents – a difference of 22,169.
In stark contrast, in 2016 the City had used BC Hydro data to conclude there are only 10,800 year-round empty homes in Vancouver.
However, despite the vast difference in tallies, Robertson said the census figures were alarming, but not surprising.
“Seeing data that shows there may be even more underutilized homes than BC Hydro suggests gives us more reason to aggressively move on the empty homes tax, and other measures that will help bring homes back within reach to residents in all corners of the city,” he said.
Under the new Empty Homes Tax, non-principal residences unoccupied for at least six months will be subject to a 1% tax on the assessed value of the property, as of 2017.
Robertson said Vancouver is in an affordability and rental crisis, and in coming months the City would also be regulating short-term rentals, thought to account for many empty homes.
“The City won’t sit on the sidelines,” said Robertson. “Vancouver will continue to do all it can to maintain and protect affordable homes, and pursue all tools available to ensure the best use of all our housing.”