By Don R. Campbell
Once again facts start to unravel conjecture. Yes, it is true that there are flaws within the methodology of this study (i.e. didn’t count properties that were disconnected from BC Hydro) but it did start to peel the onion around the very visual and much believed concept that foreigners are buying our homes, leaving them empty and THIS is the reason for Vancouver’s housing market unaffordability. But a simple look at reality would have debunked this myth, without the big study. Here are three realities:
- The houses that we see pictured and protested are not of the ‘affordable’ housing stock. In most cases, they are larger single family homes on large lots within low density neighbourhoods. Affordability does not come from renting these properties out and never did.
- Condos now make up the majority of the more affordable housing stock in Vancouver and the study shows that approximately 12% of these are unoccupied. The fact that they are unoccupied does not mean that they are rentable. Many Vancouverites seem perfectly fine owning a second property/apartment/condo in a sunny climate like Phoenix or Palm Springs and when they are not using it, that property stays vacant for the majority of the year. The prices in these regions have also escalated dramatically since the 2008 drop. Imagine how these ‘foreign’ owners (Vancouverites) would feel if they became the target of a “Canadians Driving Up Real Estate Prices in Palm Springs – They Must Be Stopped” campaign. This is the same situation here in Vancouver, but not because of the weather. People own condos in Vancouver to put their money in a politically safe and stable haven. They are not running from the cold weather, they are running from a possible “capital winter” where it is not they that freeze, it is their capital that gets frozen by their governments. The old saying becomes “Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged”.
- Now let us look at policy: condo restrictions. Let’s say that the majority of the owners of these “vacant” condos wish to add their properties to the rentals stock, thus increasing available rentals and slowing rental increases. Unfortunately, in this province, these owners most likely couldn’t do so even if they wanted to, due to the incredibly restrictive power that a small Condo/Strata Board has over their community. In this province (unlike some others) they can even restrict what a private citizen does with their privately owned asset, meaning that they can even prohibit an owner of a property from renting that property out. Thus, the owners’ inability to rent their properties drives rental prices upwards and vacancy downwards, making Vancouver even less affordable.
For the full article, see: