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City report says vacancy not fuelling real-estate rise. Let the fighting over data begin!

March 9th, 2016 · 10 Comments

The city’s release of a comprehensive study of 12 years worth of electricity use in 225,000 homes has given the most detailed picture to date, in 20 years of arguing, about what is empty in Vancouver and what isn’t.

And it has all gone to prove my newly devised Bula’s theorem: The more data there is, the more disagreement. Data, rather than settling anything, seems to generate new battles on ever more fronts. (Australia has proven that. It collects data on foreign ownership that many people here say is needed. Every time the state issues a report, there is a torrent of people saying the numbers must be wrong, that ownership is really higher than the 15 per cent or whatever, because people are cheating, that the numbers don’t really take into account this or that.)

Anyway, the report is out. It provides data for some interesting things but not others. Since electrical use isn’t combined with any kind of home ownership information, it doesn’t really say anything about foreign ownership or foreign capital or what role investors play or why units are empty.

As staff said yesterday, it showed that vacancy is not correlated with real-estate prices. It showed there were 10,800 units that had been empty for at least 12 months in 2014, which is 2,400 more than in 2002. The rate of overall vacancy hasn’t changed (about 4.8 per cent) but, since there is more housing in Vancouver now than in 2002, the absolute number of units unoccupied has increased.

No one knows why they’re vacant. It’s mostly condos that are vacant, about 9,700 of the total (I’m working on a story as we speak about what might be the cause of that).

And that’s where we are. My story here. The city’s power point here and the consultant’s report here, for those wanting to do a little Talmudic deconstruction.

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