CBC Radio this morning had an interview with Christine Boehringer, founder of Lonely Homes, a website (lonelyhomes.ca) that tracks empty homes (“positively identified houses or strata units … hat are not being lived in”) in the Greater Vancouver region. Information collected is “anonymized” to protect privacy and security, but this information could be a helpful tool to help develop a better understanding of the housing situation.
According to the website, the effort started by friends discussing the many ways lonely homes affect us. “No political party is driving it; we care about our community and want to maintain it. We are not affiliated with any government or real estate entity and we aren’t selling your email address. We’re just a small group of people who have followed all the newspaper stories and commentaries about housing in our communities.” They ask people to monitor their own neighbourhood and take two minutes to report lonely homes. The summary data by postal code “will be made available to local governments in Greater Vancouver to help drive policy and taxation planning.” As of today, 103 are indicated for the city of Vancouver.
Excerpt from site
Why are we doing this?
- Inflate housing prices – Foreign buyers compete for homes and drive up prices well beyond the payscale of most British Columbians.
- Raise property taxes – A higher home value means more property tax. Also, municipalities must provide services like water, sewer and garbage pick-up to vacant homes even if those services are not used. Municipalities could spend millions of tax dollars to build unnecessary infrastructure and services.
- Increase theft and vandalism – Empty homes are an invitation to thieves and vandals and neighbourhoods with many vacant homes could be targeted for crime.
- Contributes to homelessness – As fewer people can afford to buy homes there is more competition for rental units, causing rental rates to increase. Individuals and families who can no longer afford to rent, even minimum-wage earners, may become homeless.
- Leads to loss of natural areas through urban sprawl – Homes that are not lived in and high house prices mean more homes built on the outskirts of communities. This urban sprawl leads to loss of natural areas that impacts wildlife.
Information is the first step towards positive change. We plan to make lonely home records available to municipal governments to help them make better policy decisions.
Related media coverage
Richmond city council defeats empty home tax bid: Coun. Carol Day tabled the motion last month to have Richmond planners examine how Vancouver was approaching the matter
Graeme Wood / Richmond News, 28-Dec-2016. See bottom: “Group counts ‘lonely homes’”
Citizen initiative launched to track empty homes, by Bala Yogesh, The Westender, 27-Dec-2016.
Online tool tracks empty homes across Metro Vancouver: Lonely Homes encourage members of the public to get online and onboard to tackle Metro Vancouver’s housing crisis, by John Kurucz, Vancouver Courier, 29-Dec-2016. Excerpt: While Boehringer applauds Vancouver’s recently-introduced empty homes tax, she says the self-reporting clause in the tax could be a disincentive. In her view, Lonely Homes adds another layer of proof that a home is in fact vacant.
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/ForeignInvestmentVancouverRealEstate/