Are Foreign Owners Driving Up Real Estate Sales And Prices?

To answer this question, demographers, David Baxter and Andrew Ramlo and economist Ryan Berlin of the Urban Futures Institute reviewed Statistics Canada 2011 Census data for the Lower Mainland.

Their goal was to determine the number of: 
a) foreign and/or temporary residents; and
b) unoccupied dwellings.

Their report titled Much Ado About Nothing: What the Census data say, and don’t say, about foreign & temporary residents and unoccupied dwellings, contained the following findings.

Foreign and/or temporary residents

Less than one per cent (0.8%) of all Metro Vancouver dwellings are occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents.

This is “about the same (insignificant) share as in other Canadian metropolitan areas” with populations of at least 200,000, reports Urban Futures.

Within Metro Vancouver, there are communities which have a larger share of foreign and/or temporary residents. These include the University of BC/University Endowment Lands (UBC/UEL) where 5.8% of apartments house foreign and/or temporary residents.

The reason, explains Urban Futures, is the large student population. “This spatial pattern clearly shows the impact of post-secondary students on apartment occupancy patterns.”

What about unoccupied dwellings?

In Metro Vancouver in 2011, 3.2% of detached homes, 6.8% of townhomes and 6.2% of apartments were unoccupied.

How does this compare with other metropolitan areas? Looking specifically at apartments, Metro Vancouver’s 6.2% unoccupied units were “below the 7.0% average for all 33 of the Census

Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) in Canada,” reports Urban Futures.

Could the numbers be even less?

Urban Futures also reviewed what is known as the census undercount.

This is the number of residents who were missed during the census count, for a variety of reasons – they may have been students or away on extended leaves.

Urban Futures estimates “there were roughly 85,000 usual residents that were missed in the region” during the Census count in 2011. Consequently, the units they live in may have been classified as unoccupied.

This indicates that the number of unoccupied dwellings could have been significantly lower than recorded.

Much Ado About Nothing

Urban Futures found there is no evidence that:
• foreign and temporary residents are more prevalent in Vancouver compared to other major metropolitan regions in Canada; and
• there is an excess of unoccupied units in our region.

“The bottom-line is that the 2011 Census data clearly shows that much ado is being made about nothing when it comes to the prevalence of foreign and/or temporary residents and unoccupied dwellings in this region,” reports Urban Futures.

“There are significant housing issues in this region, but the levels of occupancy by foreign and/or temporary residents and level of unoccupied units are not among them,” according to Urban Futures.

To read the report visit:


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