City of Vancouver owns 12 vacant homes

Sunday, July 2: City of Vancouver buying homes to demolish for park expansion.

In the midst of a housing crisis the City of Vancouver currently has 12 vacant homes in its possession.

In response to a freedom of information request, the city’s Real Estate Services department confirmed the city owned the dozen properties as of July 25.

However, it said plans are in the works to turn nearly half of them into rental accommodation.

LISTEN: CKNW’s Janet Brown joins Steele & Drex to talk empty homes

The city said five of the houses are vacant waiting for construction to start next February on a pair of six storey residential buildings that will create 101 secure market rental homes, with 52 per cent designed to accommodate families.

Two other houses are also being renovated for rental housing, while three more will be torn down due to the state they’re in.

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The city also said one house is undergoing testing for mould, and that another is being moved to a different location.

READ MORE: Vancouver mayor says vacant city-owned house to be rented out

Park Board commissioner John Coupar said it’s not unusual for the Board to purchase properties or homes in the hopes of seeing them developed into park space sometime down the road.

“Over the years, we’ve acquired parks properties all around the city in order to increase smart park space in areas to make them efficient, and these things do take a long period of time. And generally, in the end, there’s usually a good result for citizens and their neighbourhoods.”

Coupar added it’s always a struggle to balance more park space versus more housing.

The bigger question, according to Coupar, is how many vacant homes are out there in general, not only the ones owned by the city.

“I think those numbers are much, much bigger than the small number that would be held by the [city], and I think our staff are trying to do a good job in the interim making some of these spaces available.”

READ MORE: City of Vancouver demolishing housing properties to make way for park space

Former Park Board Commissioner turned realtor Aaron Jasper said the board has long had the mandate to acquire properties to turn into public land.

But in this day and age, with sky high real estate prices, developers and the Park Board can work together, he said.

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“I think the bang for the buck is for working with the development community. And where there are bigger development potential sites incorporating public green space, so perhaps a developer builds it but over a period of time perhaps the maintenance is phased in so that it is more of the responsibility of the City of Vancouver.”

READ MORE: Vancouver Councillor wants public database for social housing

Jasper said a decade ago there was less concern about maintaining the life span of some of the older houses, but now with the housing crunch — as long as a house is safe and habitable — it should be re-purposed as public housing.

Earlier this summer, the city faced criticism when it was revealed that it was sitting on an empty house on Victoria Drive as a part of a long-term plan to expand John Hendry Park.

The city has since said the home will be rented out.