Housing shortage rattles Vancouver market

As listings drop to 30-year lows, starts of new homes plunged 25 per cent in September from a month earlier

Both active listings and new housing starts have fallen across Greater Vancouver this year | Photo: Chung Chow

Early October data shows that listings of homes for sale in Greater Vancouver have fallen to 30-year lows, while housing starts in the region plunged 25 per cent in September from a month earlier.

In mid-October 2020 there were 13,670 homes for sale in Greater Vancouver. As of October 15 of this year, there were only 9,161 active listings, according to Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver data.

“We are now close to dropping below 9,000 [active listings]. That is the lowest we’ve seen in over 30 years,” noted Kevin Skipworth, managing partner of Dexter Associates Realty in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, as of mid-October there have been 1,767 homes sold in Greater Vancouver, up from 1,741 at mid-October 2020.

Skipworth said October home sales are tracking down from September 2021 and he believes the lack of listings is stunting the market.

“Without homes to purchase, sellers are hesitant to come on the market when they need to find a next home to move to,” he explained.

Little relief is expected, at least short-term, in new home construction.

Data released October 18 from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) showed home construction activity across B.C. dropped significantly in September as starts of multi-family housing plummeted. The Crown corporation found the province’s seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of housing starts sunk 25 per cent from 42,236 units in August to 31,532 in September.

Metro Vancouver’s SAAR dropped 37 per cent month to month as starts fell from 22,394 units in August to 14,109 units in September.

 “Among Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, Vancouver was the only market not to register growth in total SAAR starts in September, due to a decline in the multi-family segment,” CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said in a statement.

CMHC data shows that there are currently 38,527 apartments and 3,128 townhomes under construction in Metro Vancouver, 24 per cent of which are rentals, not strata units for sale. As of the end of September, only 1,452 of the new multi-family units completed this year remain “unabsorbed”, the lowest inventory level since the autumn of 2017.

But CMHC also noted that multi-unit housing projects largely drives the market and can vary significantly month to month.