Lonely Homes FAQ

    What's the website concept/purpose?

    The concept is to understand the number of empty homes in the lower mainland, build awareness, and encourage discussion.

    We would like to see local governments across BC put stronger measures in place to encourage the release of lonely homes to the rental market and restrictions against investment in housing that leads to empty homes.

    Homes shouldn’t be commodities, they should be available for people to live in and raise their families.

    Why did you make the website? Who is behind the website?

    Over the last few years the cost of buying a home here has escalated significantly and more homes are being built further away from the city centres into natural areas. Home costs are increasing in an unsustainable way. There have been a lot of news stories about real estate in the Lower Mainland and lots of data including estimates of empty homes from older census data and other sources. Estimates from 10,800 to 58,000 empty homes in the Lower Mainland have been generated from different sources. These are shocking numbers, the equivalent of small cities. The issue of empty homes, their impact on communities and the environment, crime and homelessness and even why they are empty hasn’t generated a lot of discussion and public input.

    The idea began to build slowly starting in January 2016 when there was a significant amount of media attention focused on the lack of rental housing in the Lower Mainland. At the time there were a number of news stories about the challenges of finding affordable homes for refugees and the number of renovictions in some areas of the region.

    We saw a number of what appear to be empty homes and wondered how common they are. We wrote down some addresses and checked on them regularly to see if they were empty over a period of time and talked about it with a few friends. Our discussion evolved into all of the ways these empty homes affect us.

    The idea for a website to quantify the number of empty homes evolved from there as a way to raise awareness and discussion about why there are empty homes and what sort of public policy decisions could be implemented to address the issue. The intent is to understand broad trends in empty homes and inform public policy, not target individual owners of empty homes.

    While the website was under construction the provincial government introduced the foreign buyer’s tax and the City of Vancouver introduced a vacancy tax for those who self-report. The website is another way to provide complementary data for public policy discussion.

    There are four of us – all private citizens that share an interest in sustainable communities and public policy. We all have fulltime work in diverse fields including project management, business/data analysis, management, and construction.

    How is your data compiled? How is it kept private?

    The data is saved in a secure database and kept private by using secure application authentication based permission. Only registered site user who add a property can see the full property address they’ve entered. User passwords are encrypted and the site uses an https connection so all data transferred between user's browser and site web server is encrypted.

    Will you sell my email address, user name or the data you collect?

    No. Your email address, user name and the data you enter are not for sale. Your email address and user name will remain private. The data collected on empty homes will be given to local and provincial governments to raise awareness of the issue and to quantify the level of concern citizens have of the issue.

    How can the public be sure that the data will not be used for another purpose?

    The founders of Lonely Homes are all private citizens that share an interest in sustainable communities and public policy. We are not affiliated with a political party and have no business interest in the information.

    What are some of your early insights based on the data you've received?

    Users appear to be registering properties close to them and most users register less than 5 homes each and so far the entries include a large number of single family homes.

    It is too early to identify other trends; we will be looking for trends as we get more information.

    What if I can’t verify if a home is empty?

    If users are unsure whether an address is an empty home or not then it shouldn’t be added to the site. Also, a home under construction isn’t an empty home, it’s an unfinished home.

    Are the homes dilapidated and ready to be knocked down?

    A random sample of 55 homes were compared to their assessed value, 3 multi-million dollar homes were removed from the sample due to very high dollar values. The remaining random sample of 52 homes has a combined assessed value of $79 million and therefore an average of $1.53 million dollars each.

    These empty homes are typical Lower Mainland family style homes not tear downs and not monster homes.

    What outcome are you hoping to achieve?

    We would like to see local governments put stronger measures in place to encourage the release of lonely homes to the rental market.

    We would like to see measures restricting foreign investment in local housing.
    Homes should not be commodities, they should be available for people to live in and raise their families.

    What about those people that could be hurt by declining property values should your group be successful?

    We’ve heard people say that if government tries to intervene in the market that people like boomers preparing to retire and new home owners will be hurt by declining home prices. In our view, the housing market is at greater risk if left unchecked and the rapid decline in property values that would be associated with a sudden collapse would hurt people a lot more than the gradual correction of home prices that would result from government regulation.

    What business is it of yours what people do with their private property?

    While the public should always be free to do what they like with their own property public policy should be in place to protect the rights of all citizens. When people can no longer afford to buy or rent in the Lower Mainland due to artificially inflated housing costs they will move elsewhere.

    When people can no longer afford to live in the Lower Mainland then companies will begin to look to other regions to establish their offices or production facilities – jobs will move to other regions.

    As more homes in the core of communities are bought and left empty then homes are built further from the core creating more urban sprawl with longer commutes and increased carbon emissions which affect the environment.

    The economic impact of housing affordability is no longer a private matter.

    How long will the website be available?

    We’ll collect data on the website until the end of March 2017 and then provide the information to government. Every four months after that we’ll ask registered users to verify the homes they’ve entered are still empty so we can track trends over time. Depending on the level of interest in the site it will remain active until January 2018 or possibly longer.

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