The share of vacant homes in Canada rose considerably between 2006 and 2016—a sign that speculators have been omnipresent in the country for quite some time.
According to a Point2 Homes, which tracked “ghost” homes in the country between 2006 and 2016, Winnipeg (42.7%), Montreal (36.3%) and Edmonton (32.5%) witnessed the biggest percentage increases of vacant homes in that 10-year span.
By 2016, there were 1.3 million empty homes in Canada, the report concluded.
Point2 Homes did look at 150 Canadian cities and determined Grande Prairie (+181.4%), Leduc (+172.4%) and Ford Saskatchewan (+146.8%) all had the biggest increases in empty homes. Conversely, Ajax (-53.1%), Burlington (-52%) and Port Moody (-50.4%) had the most significant declines.
Interestingly, the report also noted that, in 2016, Canada’s share of empty homes was five times bigger than it was in the United States.
Vancouver’s share of vacant properties increased 9.6% in that decade span, while Toronto decreased a modest 4.7%.
Carl Gomez, QuadReal’s chief economist, says that while the data period ended three years ago, speculative activity explains much of what happened in the period specified, as well as in the years hitherto.
“This is rearview mirror stuff because the data only goes until 2016 and we’ve seen a change in the drivers, but one reason the vacancy rate increased in Vancouver—and this has been a story around Vancouver for quite a period of time—is over that time you saw a lot of foreign and local investors and this is a big issue around empty homes in Vancouver,” said Gomez. “Residents bought these homes and probably lived offshore or in another province, but generally there have been a number of empty homes.”
He added that the British Columbia government has since brought in a slew of cooling measures that have curbed speculation, at least partially.
“I suspect these numbers have changed since 2016 but I also suspect Vancouver is dominated by speculators,” continued Gomez.
In Toronto, the condo market is investor-driven, however, their holdings do not typically remain empty.
“The investor-held units are occupied by renters,” said Gomez.