Friends and colleagues,
Since the release of 2011 Census data on housing and families we have had the opportunity to explore the ways in which our communities changed over the previous five years across a range of dimensions, from the proportion of new dwellings that are being added as apartments to the shifts in family composition and living arrangements.
One specific element that has attracted significant attention of late (at least here in Vancouver) has been the prevalence of housing occupancy by foreign and/or temporary residents; this has been closely followed by concerns about the prevalence of both unoccupied dwellings and foreign investment, specifically as they pertain to the apartment stock in the metropolitan Vancouver region.
Unfortunately, as a result of not considering the precise Census definitions for these data, the discussions have at best misrepresented what the Census attempts to measure, and at worst supported misconceptions about housing occupancy in the region. Either way, if there is going to be a meaningful discussion about housing, and meaningful policy responses to particular issues or trends that we, as residents of the region, feel need attention, it is necessary to know what the data are and what they mean before we draw any conclusions from them.
In order to provide some clarification on both the definitions and the data, we purchased a custom tabulation of the Census data in question, thereby allowing us to more fully explore and explain what can, and cannot, be said about these elements of housing occupancy. We have posted a link on our homepage to a short paper which considers each dimension, within which is a link to a longer technical document that details the definitions and the data.