More than 66,000 homes in the Toronto real estate market are vacant, according to a report by Point2 Homes. The analysis shows the evolution of empty properties in the largest 150 Canadian urban centres between 2006 and 2016.
Titled “Ghost” Homes Across Canada: A Decade of Change in 150 Cities, the report found that more than 1.34 million properties were empty across the entire country in 2016. In addition to foreign buyers and unaffordability issues, the study notes that the increase in the number of vacant homes is also due to decreasing populations, economic fluctuations at a local level, and investor speculation.
Vacant Homes in Toronto
While the number of empty properties increased in other major Canadian urban centres, Toronto’s vacancies dropped by 4.7% during the decade that was studied. In 2006, 5.9% of the homes in the city were empty; by 2016, the percentage had fallen to 5.6%.
At the same time, Toronto’s population increased by 9.1% to more than 2.7 million residents in 2016. And, while the condo boom is the main solution to address the housing shortage, converting more of the vacant homes into rental stock is another viable option. To do just that, Toronto’s City Council is considering following Vancouver’s lead and introducing its own version of the empty homes tax.
Empty Homes in the Province
Certain cities in Ontario have some of the highest numbers of empty homes in Canada. Kawartha Lakes and Collingwood, in particular, face the largest percentages of vacant properties in the country – at 19.1% and 17.7%, respectively.
Conversely, other cities in the province are at the opposite end of the spectrum, with some of the lowest shares of vacant properties across the nation. For instance, Orangeville has the second-lowest number of empty homes in Canada (1.2%), right behind Sainte-Julie, QC (1.1%).
When it comes to changes in the number of vacant dwellings between 2006 and 2016, the top five Ontario real estate markets that recorded the biggest rise in unoccupied dwellings were:
- North Bay (68.2%)
- Milton (46.5%)
- Waterloo (29.9%)
- Belleville (27%)
- Bradford West Gwillimbury(22.5%)
The five cities that saw the biggest drops in unoccupied homes were:
- Ajax (-53.1%)
- Burlington (-52%)
- Clarington (-48.9%)
- Whitchurch-Stouffville (-45.7%)
- Woodstock (-43.9%)
Vacant Homes Across the Country
Of all the cities included in the study, the most significant increases in the number of vacant dwellings were found in Grande Prairie (+181.4%), Leduc (+172.4%), and Fort Saskatchewan (+146.8%) – all in Alberta. Due in large part to the 2014-2016 recession, the number of empty properties also skyrocketed in various other cities across the province.
Among Canada’s 10 largest cities, the data showed that Winnipeg, MB, experienced the biggest increase in empty homes (42.7%), followed by Montreal, QC (36.3%), and Edmonton, AB (32.5%). While Toronto saw a decrease in its unoccupied homes during the 10 years that were studied, Vancouver saw a 9.6% increase – which brought the vacancy rate in that city to 8.2%.
In terms of net numbers, data from the 2016 StatCan census shows that several large Canadian urban centres had a high number of vacant homes, including Montreal, QC (64,000 homes), and Vancouver, BC (25,000); Calgary, AB; Ottawa, ON; and Edmonton, AB, all had more than 20,000 empty homes.
Looking at a decade of change in Canada’s vacancy rates revealed that millions of homes are unoccupied. As more people move into the cities, this is an issue that will need to be addressed.