3,400 unoccupied dwellings in Victoria, census data show

WATCH: Amidst vacancy low, 2016 census reveals thousands of dwellings are unoccupied in Victoria. Isabelle Raghem reports. 

According to the latest census, more than 3,400 properties in Victoria were empty last year.

Out of 49,212 dwellings, 3,450 or 7 per cent, were listed as unoccupied.

It comes just a few months after the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation said the region was facing a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate.

It’s a gap in numbers expert say they’ve seen in Metro Vancouver.

“Rich people from all over the world, all over Canada, can buy properties pay low property tax rates, maybe use it as a vacation place, maybe make lots of money doing Air Bnb having it occupied by people who aren’t regular residents,” says Tom Davidoff with the UBC Saunder School of Business. 

The census is leading the city’s mayor to ask questions about the numbers.

“Is it referring to dwellings that have been completed that no one is in yet? Were people on vacation the day of the census? It’s very hard to know what those numbers mean,” explain Mayor Lisa Helps. 

The census shows the numbers are down from 2011. 

The unoccupied rate was almost 3% higher in 2011, at 9.9%. 

“I think it’s heartening to see that it’s not going up with all the worry about vacancies,” says Helps. 

Unoccupied properties have been a concern for Victoria council, with some suggesting that an empty home tax be levied on such properties.

“It would be a great waste in Vancouver and Victoria to have a rental property and leave it empty because there are so many people tripping over themselves hoping to spend a bit of time there,” explains Davidoff. 

The mayor is hoping to see taxation changes for abandoned properties.

“Those ones drive me nuts, and they’re multi family dwellings, we could be housing tens if not hundreds of people just by taking care of the derelict sites.”

The census also revealing more than 1,500 new properties were added to the Victoria market between 2011 and 2016.