The Over-Building of Vancouver

February 26, 2013

Mayor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver crew at City Hall continue to push for ever more densification.  Vision and their allies claim that we need to keep building to solve the housing affordability crisis, even though this strategy has been tried since before Sam Sullivan’s EcoDensity days, always without success — the ever-increasing cost of property in Vancouver since, say, 2000 proves the failure.

This desire for more new building — which only helps the development industry keep the money flowing — is creating an alarming situation where Vancouver is being over-built.  Proof of this claim is to be found in the 2011 Census data.

The 2011 census for Vancouver shows that there were a total of 286,742 private dwellings in the city.  A “private dwelling” is defined as “a separate set of living quarters designed for or converted for human habitation in which a person or group of persons reside or could reside.” In other words, a house, a condo, an apartment, or anything similar. The same census shows that only 264,573 of those dwellings were occupied by “regular” residents of Vancouver, i.e., those folks who claim Vancouver as their place of residence.

The difference of 22,269 dwellings (8% of the total) is made up of vacant dwellings or dwellings occupied by people who do not claim Vancouver as their place of residence.  

Stats Canada has not yet provided a breakdown of the 22,269 dwellings, so we are obliged to make some assumptions.

One of the abiding beliefs in Vancouver is that non-residents are driving the Lower Mainland housing market. Clearly, if one out of every twelve dwellings is occupied by non-residents then this claim is patently true.  However, supporters of “Vancouverism” (Vision and others) say that is just a myth and isn’t so; and who are we to disagree?

Which means that most of these 22,269 dwellings are vacant.

It gets worse:  That 22,269 number does not include buildings that were under construction at the time of the census.  Nor does it include the vast numbers of additional units that Vision Vancouver’s majority on Council — generally against strong neighbourhood opinion — have approved since the census.

And lest Vision and its surrogates try to say the 2011 figures were just a blip, the relevant figure for 2006 was 20,592 showing that under Vision’s management this problem has grown by 10% and, of course, continues to grow as Vision continues to feed their development buddies.

The Census figures clearly show that, either the non-resident occupiers are distorting the housing marketplace or that Vancouver is seriously over-built.  Given the arguments by Vision and its pals that the former is not the case, then the latter must be true.