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Vancouver's empty homes tax visibly improved vacancy rates, supply

by Ephraim Vecina on 11 Feb 2019

The ratio of unoccupied residential properties in Vancouver noticeably fell by 15% in just one year, and half of previously empty homes have been moved to the rental market, according to the initial returns of the city’s 2018 empty homes tax.

The Vancouver government stated that these figures point to the effectiveness of the levy, with a tangible impact on both vacancy rates and rental supply.

Overall, the number of the city’s vacant homes went down from 1,085 homes in 2017, to just 922 in 2018.

However, a markets observer warned that it might be too early to celebrate the empty homes tax as a victory, since Vancouver is not yet seeing an equitable distribution of relief.

Andy Yan, the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, cautioned late last year that price declines have taken place only in the top tier of the market, while the middle and lower price brackets remained all but unchanged.

Read more: Federal gov’t should do more to address shortages – mayors

“The softening of the market and cooling of the market is something that is definitely happening,” Yan admitted, but quickly added that it’s “a little bit premature to know whether the policies are a success or failure.”

The government previously stated that the tax was meant to open up unused houses to would-be tenants squeezed by the lack of availability in the Vancouver rental market.

The highly desirable downtown area, which has an unoccupied rate of more than 1%, is playing host to a large proportion of these empty homes.

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