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Vancouver’s vacancies point to investors, not residents

Nearly a quarter of condos in Vancouver are empty or occupied by non-residents in some dense areas of downtown, a signal that investors play a significant role in the city’s housing market.

And the city overall has a much higher rate of empty apartments and houses than other Canadian cities, with a rate closer to places like New York and San Francisco at the height of their mortgage crisis in 2010.

That sign of high vacancies and non-resident-owned units, which contradict some other studies and assurances that Vancouver is not being flooded with investors, should give the city pause, analysts say.

“What kind of community are you living in if there are that many empty? For a city to have that kind of vacancy, it’s like cancer,” said Richard Wozny, a real estate consultant, during an interview Wednesday. “It distorts density and it’s delaying the impact. It raises the question ‘Are we over-building?’”

“The problem is vacant units since that’s demand for real estate without housing people.”

In the city of Vancouver, the rate of those kinds of dwellings stood at 7.7 per cent overall, with some parts of the downtown as high as 23 per cent. In the city of Toronto, the rate was 5.4 per cent; in Calgary, 5 per cent.

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Living in Vancouver is so expensive already and having so many vacant houses is going to drive out people and dry up business if this increases, especially in the heart of Vancouver. 

What do you think?