Housing in Vancouver: 2021 data on affordability and homelessness

Record year for purpose-built rental approvals, but homes for households earning $80,000 are still missing

If you’re looking for good housing news in Vancouver, there’s a report on that.

If you’re looking for bad news, there’s a report for that too.

These reports – and another related to the “refresh” of the city’s housing strategy – were presented to the city council last week.

I’ve gone through some of the 150+ pages and decided that the best way to give you an overview of the housing situation in 2022 is to use a few bullet points and quotes from the reports.

First, a little background…

In 2017, then-council approved Vancouver’s housing strategy with the goal of adding 72,000 new homes to the city over 10 years.

Fifty percent of those homes are supposed to be guaranteed rental units and off-market housing for households earning $80,000 or less per year, including 5,200 homes for low-income earners at $15,000 per year or less.

Forty percent of the houses are supposed to be two and three bedroom units, also known as married quarters.

“Overall, taking into account secondary tenancies such as rented condominiums, two-thirds of housing should be available to renter households,” said one of the staff reports.

That’s a lot of numbers and promises.

So, is the strategy working?

The good news:

• More than 8,800 total new housing units were approved in 2021 (not including new single-family homes or duplexes), the highest since the Housing Strategy was approved in 2017.

• Of this total, 1,344 new social and supportive housing units were approved, the second highest number of approvals since 2010.

• More than 2,900 new purpose-built rental units on the market were approved, including 176 below-market rental units, the highest approvals in several decades.

• New townhouses approved totaled 439, well above the 10-year average.

• For the second year in a row, more than half (52%) of new housing approvals in 2021 were for secure or social rental housing (not counting new single-family homes or duplexes).

• Of the homes completed last year, 689 were for secure rental and 1,186 for social housing, the highest number of completions in decades.

• A total of 461 new hotel rooms and single rooms were acquired in 2021.

The bad news:

• Only 33% of homes approved since 2017 were affordable for households with incomes of $80,000 or less.

• About 77,000 households in Vancouver are in “housing need” due to unaffordable, unsuitable or inadequate housing, according to 2016 census data.

• Approximately 2,000 people are homeless and 7,000 residents live in 157 single-room hotels, which Mayor Kennedy Stewart, the provincial government and the federal government all want to get rid of and replace with more modern, safe and secure housing.

• Indigenous and Black people continue to be overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness, as do members of the 2S/LGBTQIA+ community.

• BC Housing’s social housing registry in March 2021 showed that there were 4,730 people waiting for social housing in the city.

• The benchmark price for a single-detached home in East Vancouver has increased more than 100% since 2010.

• Rents in Vancouver have increased by more than 45% between 2011 and 2021, and by more than 50% for the region as a whole.

• Vacancy rates in Vancouver and the region have remained close to 1%, with the exception of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The interesting news:

• Vancouver is a major destination for migration from Canada and abroad, with nearly 60,000 households settling in the city between the 2011 and 2016 censuses.

• The vast majority of recent migrants are renters, who tend to be younger and earn lower incomes than current residents.

• During the same period from 2011 to 2016, nearly 20,000 households left Vancouver to live elsewhere in Metro Vancouver; Another 20,000 left the area.

• Between 2011 and 2016, nearly 77,000 households residing in Vancouver moved at least once to another dwelling in Vancouver.

• Last year, Vancouver’s population was 662,248, up 14.6% from 2006.

• Over 80% of purpose-built rental housing in Vancouver was built before 1980.

• According to recent Statistics Canada data, 19.3% of sole proprietors residing in Vancouver owned more than one property.

• Of the number of people moving to Vancouver, 75% are renters.

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