“Ghost homes” that sit vacant while residents scramble for affordable housing aren’t a particular problem in Port Moody, says the city’s mayor.
A recent study by Point2, an international real estate marketplace, highlighted Port Moody as one of British Columbia’s top five cities where the vacancy rate grew between 2011 and 2021.
The city’s 31 per cent boost to its vacancy rate — from three to four per cent — is second only to Delta’s 47 per cent jump.
The study, which analyzed correlations between demographic changes and vacancy rates for 150 of the largest cities across Canada, speculated homes could be getting left vacant on purpose, as vacation or secondary residences, underused investment properties or even as rentals between tenants.
It suggested such vacancies could be eroding home affordability.
But Mayor Rob Vagramov said the hard numbers don’t add up as the primary reason for skyrocketing housing costs.
He said according to data from the province’s speculation and vacancy tax, only 95 of the 11,870 declared units in Port Moody were hit with the additional fee in 2020 for being left empty.
The rest of the city’s 494 units deemed vacant in the 2021 census were likely comprised of
- units in recently completed projects awaiting occupants
- properties bought for redevelopment projects
- units vacated in the Woodland Park neighbourhood, as tenants are moved around to accommodate its redevelopment
Instead, Vagramov said, housing across the region is becoming increasingly unaffordable as prices are pulled up by the luxury market.
“There is no reason why an 18-year-old [student] graduating from Port Moody Secondary should be expected to compete with the billionaires of the world for basic housing in Metro Vancouver," he said.
Indeed, a 513 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment in The Moody, a 142-unit building on St. Johns Street developed by Vancouver-based Woodbridge Homes as the city’s first purpose-built rental project in 50 years, starts at $1,550 a month.
At the nearby Inlet Glen complex on Dewdney Trunk Road that is also nearing completion, a 612 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment with no parking starts at $1,850 a month, while a 910 sq. ft. two-bedroom unit goes for $2,250 a month.
Those kinds of prices are squeezing people — and particularly families — from settling in Port Moody, according to a recent assessment of the city’s housing needs that was completed last year by community planning and development consultant, CitySpaces Consulting.
The study found the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is now more than $1,000 a month, but anything more affordable usually comes with trade-offs like being in poor condition or located far from amenities like public transit.
According to online rental platform liv.rent, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver was $1,850 in February, while it was $1,790 in Toronto and $1,414 in Montreal.