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A “Tree Rings” View of Residential Properties by Year Built in Metro Vancouver

Andrew Yan October 6, 2015
Urban Research


A special thanks to the ever erudite John Mackie for his article on the chart in the Vancouver Sun.

In the ongoing exploration of property data in Metro Vancouver from BC Assessment, BTAworks looked at the age of residential properties and charted their type and year built.  With 2015 BC Assessment roll data provided by an academic license via the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning, the chart provides a kind of dendrochronology of all residential properties in Metropolitan Vancouver. The chart captures the time frame of the 1900 to 2014 and is a point-in-time capture of all the residential properties in Metro Vancouver. The ebbs and flow of economics, real estate development and history as well as some building booms and busts throughout the 20th century are be observed.  The First and Second World War as well as the Great Depression have left a mark on Vancouver’s built form.  This chart does not capture every building that was ever built in Metro Vancouver, but the surviving stock of residential properties in the region as of 2014.  In an ever changing region, residential properties have been demolished, replaced, and newly built throughout the 120 year time line. It is not an absolute listing of every residential building ever built, but a view into our existing residential property stock.


It can be argued that Metro Vancouver area is a product of the late 20th century as 80 percent of its residential properties were built after 1971. While the City of Vancouver and the City of New Westminster do have a stock of residential buildings that date back to the late 19th and early 20th Century, the overwhelming mass of residential buildings in the region are from the late 20th century. The early 1980s and the late 1990s seems to be corrective slowdown moments to make the end of large periods of residential property construction.  The impact of pubic policy on residential property can be observed acutely as condominiums were only created with the passing of the Strata Act of 1972 and of which took several years before they were constructed in mass.  For a comprehensive history of the Strata Act and its impact on the housing markets in the City of Vancouver, please click here. Interestingly, peak single family housing construction seems to have occurred in 1989 with 10,560 units and the strata residential (condos) at 17,259 in 2008.

There are some technical notes about the data and use of this chart:

  • This chart covers residential properties in Vancouver and NOT buildings. Strata residential also known as condos are registered as individual units that are counted in this chart, but not necessarily individual buildings.  For example, 250 units built in 1996 that can be a single building, but registered as separate 250 properties in 1996.
  • While data is from the 2015 BC Assessment Rolls, it ends at the year 2014 as Assessments are made every July to July and the Year published for each assessment is made as of July of the previous year.  For example, the 2015 Assessment is actually done in July 2014.
  • The base variable used for these charts are the “Year Built” variable within the Assessment Rolls. If a property had major renovations, but original building still stands, then the year built variable remains, but the year of the major renovations are noted as its “effective year”.
  • The core BC Assessment database has been edited for erroneous entries and matches and properties with values of less than $100,000 were excluded from the chart. Moreover, we suspect that the year built of many residential properties built prior to 1920s may not have been comprehensively documented in the current database.
  • Finally, one should not be directly comparing the data in this chart to data from Statistics Canada or the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation as each agency follows a different methodology towards tabulating and processing counts of housing.