Vancouver Would Be Cooler If It Followed Barcelona’s Lead and Seized Empty Homes

Vancouver Would Be Cooler If is a column that advocates for things that exist in other cities that could serve to improve or otherwise celebrate life in our own.

(via) The city of Barcelona’s housing department is not playing games when it comes to increasing its housing stock. We wish our own leaders would take note and start acting as if they truly understood that homes need to house people first and are investment vehicles second. From Bloomberg’s City Lab:

This week, the city’s housing department wrote to 14 companies that collectively own 194 empty apartments, warning that if they haven’t found a tenant within the next month, the city could take possession of these properties, with compensation at half their market value. These units would then be rented out by the city as public housing to lower-income tenants, while the companies in question could also face possible fines of between €90,000 and €900,000 ($103,000 and $1,003,000), according to Spanish news outlets. […] In Barcelona, another 232 empty homes have been identified as the next targets for the program. Meanwhile, the city is seeking to persuade Catalonia’s regional authority to make the program even more expansive, by allowing forced sale of properties after just six months of vacancy, rather than two years.

It would be tempting to decry any such move in Vancouver as irredeemably socialist and a bridge too far for local government, but in 2020 those arguments are sounding less and less like the familiar, rational defences of free market capitalists and more and more like the plaintive whimpers of those who don’t care to acknowledge how serious the situation has become or how dangerous it can actually get.

There are 10 comments

  1. Great idea, if you want to completely destroy investor confidence, send prices plummeting and coz a bunch of banks & business to go bankrupt

  2. I wouldn’t mind a couple of those things, especially if investor confidence is dependent on a broken system that hurts so many people.

  3. Re:”destroy investor confidence”-
    Housing is a city government role, as long as the rules are equally applied- I have no problem with this. Of course the over leveraged and the greedy will suffer; not a bad thing.

  4. Why should I – or any of the other hundreds of thousands of residents who comprise the massive majority of local urbanites, most of whom are paying out the fucking nose to afford rent – give a single solitary damn about crashing prices and shaking investor confidence? You’re a clown if you think any satisfactorily diversified bank will suffer unduly. As for developers and real estate firms, I am busting a fucking nut at the thought of them collapsing. Please, please let that happen.

  5. If by ‘destroying investor confidence’ you mean making it difficult for parasitic landlords to exploit and manipulate the market, then by all means.

  6. The city could start with enforcing the no-foreign-ownership laws already in place, increase the market rent % on new builds, stop rezoning rental-only lots, before moving to an empty-housing fine system, which is an excellent idea. It is all needed (10 years ago). City councilors need to be proactive and forward thinking. As an example: The District of North Vancouver evicted 66 families in Lynn Valley 2 years ago… the huge lot sits cleared and empty today without a construction permit. There is so much that can and needs to be done to solve the problems of housing.

  7. LOLBESS – Destroy investor confidence?? Really? A few kicks in the nuts to the parasites who drive up property values needlessly by speculation would be great. And any bank that drops dead because of the loss of a few mortgages doesn’t deserve to live. Hey, City of Vancouver, let’s cue this one up.

  8. actually it’s the only solution, except I would just seize the properties, not pay half their value. If foreign owners have so much money they don’t need to use them, they won’t miss having them. The only reason to own these empty properties IN OUR COUNTRY is to force prices up so all regular CANADIANS are driven out of the city. Do you want to live in a country owned by arrogant, rich foreigners? Do you want to work for them for the rest of your life?

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