Vancouver’s Mansion Owners In Poverty

Vancouver's Mansion Owners In Poverty
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Why in Vancouver’s wealthy neighborhoods — where houses cost over $2 million — over 30 percent of residents claim poverty

Mansion owners in Vancouver are claiming poverty at the same levels as those suffered by the city’s homeless struggling in the Downtown Eastside.

A recent study by University of B.C. geographer Dan Hiebert has revealed that wealthy business-investor immigrants to Canada — hundreds of thousands of whom have chosen to relocate to Vancouver — are “poor” enough to receive social welfare.

Vancouver's Mansion Owners In Poverty (2)
Areas of Vancouver that report extreme low income (Dan Hiebert)

The neighborhoods that report the most poverty, according to Hiebert’s report, which is based on Statistics Canada data, are the upscale Metro neighborhoods with high proportions of immigrants — mostly Chinese.

In these areas over 30 percent of adults claim poverty.

The houses in these areas, including Shaughnessy-Arbutus, south of Oakridge Shopping Center, and north-central Richmond — sell in the range of $2 million to $6 million Canadian.

Shaughnessy-Arbutus is currently 50 percent Chinese and 34 percent white, although the percentage of Chinese in all of Vancouver’s neighborhoods is currently rising.

South of Oakridge Shopping Center, the percentage of Chinese is 70 percent. Whites make up 20 percent.

Several north Richmond neighborhoods are “low-income” according to tax stats. These neighborhoods are also approximately 60 percent Chinese.

Hiebert’s data echoes another recent study conducted by Vancouver mathematician Jens Von Bergmann which found that 1 in 10 households declare less income than they spent on housing costs — mostly in Vancouver’s West Side.

Canada’s business investor program allowed foreign nationals to obtain a Canadian passport in exchange for a temporary investment of $800,000 Canadian — an amount much lower than similar programs in other countries popular with wealthy immigrants. The program was cancelled last year but the Quebec business investor program remains in use, allowing thousands to land in Quebec before relocating to Vancouver.

Just those immigrants who have relocated to Vancouver (current population under 2.5 million for Greater Vancouver Area) using this program amount to approximately 200,000 in the last generation. However, the number of new immigrants to Vancouver is estimated to be over 30,000 per year.

Many Canadians see this issue in terms of tax fairness because those rich in assets but poor in income do not pay for public services.

However, a further consideration exists, according Vancouver immigration lawyer Samuel Hymm.

Many of these families actually do have high incomes — a phenomenon in Canada known as “astronauts” because the husband usually works overseas while the wife and children live in Canada — but these incomes are not reported and, according to Hymm, neither the B.C. government or the federal government are cracking down on rich home buyers.

Critics such as Immigration Watch Canada’s Dan Murray have pointed out the political nature of the problem. Despite the breadth of the issue and the cost to Canadian taxpayers, no Canadian political party has said a word about it, despite the current federal election.

“So far, none of our five major political parties has even uttered a peep about this matter,” Murray told The Speaker. “The point is that several million immigrants — particularly hundreds of thousands of Investor Immigrants — have been taking huge amounts of economic and social benefits from Canada, but have been contributing next to nothing. And they have been getting away with it because the Canada Revenue Agency has not pursued these hundreds of thousands or millions of cheats.”

Murray has asserted that the issue should be a top election matter. “It translates into a major scandal,” Murray said. “It should be a major election scandal.”

Note: The UBC news source for this story was removed from the internet after publication, so we link to a copy of the cached version here

Liberals Announce Increase for Immigration

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Canada’s Liberal government has announced plans to increase immigration levels to 300,000 per year, a 40,000 increase to the target level.

The number of immigrants accepted in 2016 was unusually high due to the government’s taking in of thousands of Syrian refugees. The number including the refugees turned out to be 300,000, and Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum said Monday that this number will now be the permanent base target. The target for the past five years was 260,000, part of a continuing trend of increased immigration since the late 1980s.

McCallum also said that the Liberal government may eventually increase immigration levels to 450,000.

100% of $1m Victoria Apartments Sold Off-Market in Q2

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In the second quarter of 2016, all of the apartment buildings with a value of $1 million CAD or more sold “off market,” according to Colliers International, as reported by SCMP.

“Off market” sales are when buyers approach property owners with cash offers, even though the owners aren’t selling at the moment.

Prices have shot up in Victoria. Apartments have gone from $152,000 to $186,000 (for the average apartment building) in the last year, and reports are that the most recent sales are much higher still.

It is thought that prices in areas around Vancouver are being driven up due to overflow of the same reasons Vancouver homes have been driven into “crisis” levels: mass immigration, particularly from China, as well as safe, relatively easy investment and money laundering opportunities.

In West Vancouver “Properties Doubled in Eight, Nine Months”

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According to local real estate agents for Royal LePage, property values have doubled in less than a year in some parts of Vancouver due to foreign real estate investment.

“The luxury market has been driven purely on the demand from investors and the appeal is the perfect storm of geographical appeal,” stated Jason Soprovich, who specializes in the West Vancouver market. “Low interest rates, very low active listing rates and pent up demand.”

“[In West Vancouver] we’ve seen properties double in value over the past eight, nine months,” he said. “In the British Properties, some properties we saw listed 8 months ago at $2.4 million are now selling at $4.5 million.”

Most buying was from a single source, he said, agreeing with other Vancouver real estate agents: Mainland China.

Others have noted that Chinese buyers who live in China make up at least one-third of buying in the area, which is in addition to Chinese buyers who reside in Canada — a demographic for which there are no clear statistics.

The shortage of affordable housing in the Vancouver area is causing people to leave, some creating a notable trend of buying houses as far east as Chilliwack and some moving to other provinces.

Responding to comments made by B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong, who has stated that he was himself “biased” in his belief that foreign buyers are not the main factor in what is taking place in the Lower Mainland real estate market, Soprovich said, “It’s naive to think there hasn’t been a lot of investors moving into this part of the country – there is and it has had a major affect.”

Soprovich recommended levying an extra property tax on foreign buyers, which would, he said, deter some buying, but, “If this large number of people are influxing into the city are coming to city and using infrastructure, there needs to be some level of taxation.”

Government Wants More Immigrants Without Language Proficiency, Immigration Minister

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The requirements people must meet before they can become Canadian citizens, such as English or French proficiency, are to be reduced, according to the Canadian government, in order to make it easier for foreigners to obtain citizenship.

Immigration Minister John McCallum said Thursday that the government intended to make changes to the Citizenship Act of Canada:

“We are in general trying to reduce the barriers people have to overcome to become a citizen,” McCallum said in an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

Currently, those wishing to become Canadian citizens must first prove proficiency in either English or French by taking a language test.

While changes the government may make to the language test “have not been announced yet,” McCallum said, the Liberals are “certainly not ditching it.” He did not specify what changes would be made, but did mention reducing the age requirement for language proficiency.

Currently, the age requirement is set at 64. It was raised from 55 in 2014 in an attempt to reduce the number of immigrants who could not communicate in English or French.

The 2014 bill that raised the age for language proficiency were protested by some M.P.s in B.C., such as Sukh Dhaliwal and Jenny Kwan. Some of B.C.s politicians, particularly those in areas where many people speak languages other than English, want the language requirement scrapped altogether.

The immigration minister also said that the government planned to make it impossible to take away Canadian citizenship for any reason.

BC To Collect Data On Real Estate Buyer Nationality

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Announced in the B.C. Budget Speech Tuesday, data about real estate buyer nationality will again be collected in the province due to widespread concern about the effects of foreign investment.

Such data was collected in the past, but was stopped in 1998. Since that time, house prices have skyrocketed in B.C., particularly in areas in and around Vancouver. Many Canadians are blaming foreign investment and mass immigration for the changes, but data that would furnish a practical assessment of the situation is lacking.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong made that announcement in Tuesday’s Budget Speech that the province would again be collecting nationality data starting this summer.

However, de Jong noted, nationality will only be collected when the buyer is not a citizen or resident of Canada. He also commented that foreign ownership of Canadian real estate is legal and even “encouraged” by the government.

The relevant portion of the Budget Speech:

How Will The New Mortgage Rates Effect The Housing Market?

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In an effort to deal with “house prices that have been elevated,” the Canadian federal government raised down payments on houses over $500,000. Analysts have questioned whether the new policy will have any meaningful effect on the market at all, while many Canadians say the change only makes it harder for new Canadian home buyers, and may make it easier for what many are pointing to as the main cause of the ongoing massive increases in house prices — foreign ownership.

Beginning this month, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation requires a 10 percent down payment on any portion of a mortgage it insures above half a million dollars. Any portion up to $500,000 will require the same down payment as before — 5 percent.

How this change effects house buyers will likely depend on where those house buyers live. In Canada overall, the average price of a home is under $500,000. Not counting Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, where prices have shot up 23-35 percent in the last five years, the average house costs $337,000, and if you exclude B.C. and Ontario, the price is under $300,000. In these regions, a $500,000 house would be a more expensive dwelling and would be in excess of what they typical home buyer would be looking for.

Read more: Home Prices Up 12% In Canada, But Down When BC And Ontario Factored Out

However, in Toronto and around Vancouver, the average is above $500,000. Even the Fraser Valley now has an average house price of half a million dollars. In these regions, all home buyers — even new families starting out — will be effected by the change.

There seems to be a discrepancy between what government officials and housing analysts are saying about the new mortgage rate and what Canadian citizens are saying about it, however.

The federal government said of the matter that they wanted to make sure they created an environment that protects home buyers by insuring that they have enough equity in their homes.

Analysis have said that the change will effect a tiny fraction of Vancouver home buyers, and that a strong B.C. economy and high employment rate are the cause of the huge housing price changes in Vancouver.

However, reading the responses to these statements (try either of the above links, or any other news story on housing prices) the most prevalent thread is one pointing at something the federal government and real estate analysts are not mentioning: foreign buyers, especially Chinese buyers.

The majority of commenters on news stories on this subject are to voice this concern. Yet it is not raised by local or federal politicians.

They have also pointed out that increasing the price for houses at this level will only make it more difficult for local buyers to own a house, and won’t effect foreign buyers who are already coming with a down payment that is larger than the required minimum.

What do you think, Canadians? How will the new mortgage rates effect the housing market?

Photo: Brian Fagan

Richmond To Ensure English On Signs On City Property

Richmond Canada
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Due to the pressure of Canadians who have complained about Richmond’s predominantly-Chinese signs, the city has signed a contract for some signs — those at bus stops — to be predominantly English.

“We’ve had the ongoing issue in Richmond about signs on businesses being in Chinese only or predominantly in Chinese, and there’s great concerns and complaints in the community.” said Richmond city spokesman Ted Townsend.

“We’ve always made it clear that it’s our desire that signs should be at least 50 percent English. In this case because the signs and bus shelters are on city land we can take a proactive approach and actually put in the requirement,” he said.

The signs on city land, Townsend said, would be “predominantly English.” The city’s move does not affect signs on property not belonging to the city, where most of the Chinese-language signs are located.

The city has been dealing with controversy over the use of Chinese language instead of English or combinations of both languages.

Over the past 30 years, the percentage of people who self-identify as Chinese living in Richmond has shot up from around 5 percent to over half, due to mass immigration into the area. In 1981, there were around 5,000 Chinese in the city; in 2011, 90,000, while white Richmondites have been leaving the city steadily over the same period of time. The current percentage of Chinese and white Canadians in the city is not known because more recent statistics are not available. The last Census was taken in 2011.

The matter of English requirements for signs came up in Richmond city business in 2013, when the local council voted against banning signs that do not contain English. In 2015, a petition for English only signs was also voted down by the council.

The city also recently made news for complaints from English tenants of a condo where the strata council, composed of Chinese speakers, decided to conduct all official business in Mandarin only.

Chinese Canadian strata council president Ed Mao had informed tenants that while they were free to come to meetings, the council had no intention of using English, the tenants reported.

One tenant filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights commission on behalf of himself and three others.

The issues of language for business and residential meetings are new ones for British Columbia. Neither has been the subject of legislation in the past, so no rules yet exist to restrict the use of languages in place of English.

Immigration Watch Group Criticizes Canada’s Mass Immigration

Richmond Canada
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Canada, the nation with the highest per capita immigration intake per year — adding 1 million immigrants every four years to her now-35 million population, is suffering because of an abnormal and unnecessary mass immigration policy, according to the immigration-focused group Immigration Watch Canada.

“Since 1991, Canada has had a mass immigration policy,” Dan Murray of Immigration Watch Canada told The Speaker.

“The term ‘mass immigration’ means that Canada has had a continued high immigration intake since 1991. This is an abnormality in Canada’s immigration history. It means that Canada has taken over 6 million people since 1991 and that Canada did not need most of those people.”

Murray said the rates were unnecessary and even detrimental to Canadians. The source of the policy of prolonged high rates of immigration originated, according to Murray, in a Conservative Party move to gain a new voting segment — the immigrant vote — in 1990.

He cited several government studies as evidence that the immigration numbers would not reduce Canada’s average age, would not produce any significant economic benefit, and would be beyond the optimal population based on Canada’s cold, mostly rock and desert land – some of the major benefits of immigration claimed by high immigration proponents.

Murray also cited the costs of bringing in an average 250,000 immigrants per year for 25 years, most of whom settle in the major cities. The cost of immigration for taxpayers — in the hundreds of million of dollars per year – is only part of the burden placed on the Canadian-born population, Murray stated. Two of the most easily quantifiable effects of mass immigration, he said, were in increased labor competition and housing affordability.

“The best friend of any worker is a tight labor market. When high  immigration intake floods the labor market, wages stagnate or even decline and unnecessary competition occurs.”

The extra workers, Murray said, are not needed, and are sometimes given place in front of Canadian-born workers though programs like the Employment Equity Act, which enforces proactive employment practices when it comes to minority groups.

Murray noted the increase in ethnic enclaves in Canadian cities over the past decades as well. A handful 30 years ago has become about 300 today and is increasing, he said.

Richmond demographicsHe cited cities like Richmond, British Columbia, where white Canadians made up 80 percent of the population in 1981. The remainder was a mix including less than 10 percent Chinese. Today, Chinese are the majority in the city, and white residents have left Richmond in the thousands. The same trend exists over all of Vancouver, where nine out of 10 of the population’s additional 30,000 new residents every year are immigrants.

He referred to Canada’s current majority population as “the new First Nations” whose interests are being betrayed by their political parties.

“Even a quick look at a graph that shows Canada’s immigration history will demonstrate that,” stated Murray. “No sane country allows its majority population to be overwhelmed. No sane country forces its majority population to compete unnecessarily for a limited number of jobs or grants new immigrants preference to those jobs. No sane country allows its population to grow indefinitely, particularly when the population growth occurs on its best agricultural land — yet Canada has done this.”