What a difference four years make, and some apologies need to be made by several people to the Duke of Data and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program Andy Yan. It was the Fall of 2015 when Andy first crunched the numbers and in his very straight forward way told the CBC that his review of 172 property sales on Vancouver’s west side found 66 percent of owners had “non-anglicized Chinese names” suggesting they were recent arrivals. At that time 18 percent of these residences were purchased without a mortgage which is a pretty jaw dropping feat for many local residents. That was potentially a significant group of people entering the local housing market, and could represent the commodification of housing as a holding, not a place to live in.
Despite the fact Andy was basing his analysis on real data, real estate pundits were quick to fingerpoint about “intolerance, racism, singling out certain groups of people …to blame” and even the past Mayor of Vancouver fell into the rhetoric stating “This can’t be about race, it can’t be about dividing people. It needs to get to the core issue about addressing affordability and making sure it’s fair.”
Well we all know where that logic took us in terms of housing affordability and it revealed an interesting cultural trait of Canadians about not wanting to offend, even when data suggested there was a trend that should be examined.
A new report from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) suggests that 11 percent of Metro condos are owned by people who don’t live in Canada. Reviewing the data Andy Yan found that in Richmond 25 percent of recently constructed condominium units were owned by a non-resident owner.
In total of $965 billion dollars worth of housing in greater Vancouver $75 billion had at least one non-resident owner. Looking at Vancouver, “non-residents of Canada are involved in the ownership of at least $34-billion worth of residential real estate, about 10 percent of the $341-billion total in the city.”
As Dan Fumano writes in the Vancouver Sun it is now “impossible to know what might have been different, if voters, bureaucrats and elected officials alike had access three years ago to this clearer picture. We don’t know what policy decisions or priorities might have looked like at the municipal, provincial or federal level.”
It was the reporter Douglas Todd who wrote an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun in early 2016 that encapsulated the debate. Three years ago Todd quoted Vancouver immigration lawyer Samuel Hyman who stated that Andy Yan “should be thanked by politicians, many of whom have for decades displayed “cowardice” by failing to document how trans-national migration and international money transfers shape housing prices. Given that most countries closely monitor the nationalities of who is buying property, the claims of “racism” from the mouths of some Metro Vancouverites are unprecedented compared to elsewhere in the world.”
What a shame it has taken three years for us to all realize that Andy was right. What could have been done differently had this data been taken seriously at the time?