The 2016 Census revealed 9,843 empty homes in the Victoria metropolitan area.

Housing prices and rents soar; rental stock is depleted; vacancy rates remain below 0.7% and 3,450 housing units were counted as unoccupied in the City of Victoria, seven percent of the City’s total housing stock! And they’re not all derelict properties.

The percentage of “unoccupied” private dwellings was highest downtown:

  • Downtown - 953 units were counted as vacant (14.6% of the 6,523 core area residential units)
  • James Bay - 641 dwellings were counted as vacant (8.3% of the neighbourhood’s 7,651 housing units)
  • VicWest - 322 units were vacant.

These three areas represent 55.5% of Victoria’s empty residential units, yet only 37.2% of City’s total housing supply.

Unoccupied private dwellings mean residential units vacant on Census Day; they include uninhabited properties for rent or sale, those undergoing renovation, and second residences.

What does the “empty homes” data suggest? Condo construction growth in the downtown core and nearby neighbourhoods indicates a growing proportion of housing units. Are the new housing units for speculation and/or seasonal short-term vacation rentals?

The CMHC Fall 2016 Rental Market Report shows 3,195 condo units (25.5% of the City’s 12,533 condo pool) as rentals. It is not evident how many of these condo rentals serve long-term local tenants versus short-term vacation (Airbnb) tenants.

More high-density, multi-story, mixed-use condo construction in the downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods means developers are providing real estate opportunities for those interested in acquiring units. as “alternative hotel accommodation”.

Is affordable housing a pipe dream? Have all levels of government, developers, and financial institutions turned housing into a commodity? Home-owners benefit, but those without property suffer the consequences. 

V. Adams