Nearly a quarter of the condos in one of Vancouver’s swankiest neighbourhoods are either vacant or occupied by non-residents, according to a UBC planning professor.

Andrew Yan analyzed the 2011 census data and discovered a shocking number of empty homes in Vancouver, particularly in the Coal Harbour area, where 23 per cent were not resident-occupied.

Experts say the phenomenon is likely explained by investors parking money in the city’s stable real estate market, though Yan said other factors may have contributed.

“Part of it is perhaps these folks are on consulting gigs and they’re out of the country, some of them are traveling, some of these units are perhaps pied-à-terres,” Yan said.

There’s no law forcing owners to live in their homes, or even to rent them out, but some in the community worry the lack of actual residents makes it harder for local businesses to survive.

Real estate expert Tsur Somerville said one only needs to stroll through the neighbourhood to confirm Yan’s findings.

“Anyone who’s been to Coal Harbour would not be surprised with the notion of it being a ghost town. It’s not a very well-populated place in terms of street-level activity,” he said.

But Somerville denied the notion that condo investment, by either foreign or local purchasers, is one of the primary forces driving Vancouver’s much-maligned affordability issues.

“We were unaffordable in 1991 and no one was screaming about foreign investors then,” he said “Overall, in the whole Lower Mainland, this is a trivial aspect of our housing issue.”

Condo investment does contribute to the problem, however, by impacting availability, he said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Shannon Paterson