We’ve turned a corner

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So much has changed in the last few months, at least in how we perceive the real estate situation in Vancouver.
For so many years, we could barely acknowledge foreign ownership because of a misdirected sense of political correctness. More often, the people stopping the conversation had a vested interest in shutting it down. After all, a lot of people are making money off the cash flow coming into the city through China, our chief source of global real estate buying. Now, finally, it seems like a dam has broken. We are free to discuss what is before our very eyes: the incredible transformation of our city due to the staggering amount of wealth that has flooded into the market. It started as a relatively slow enough trickle, back in the late 80s and early 90s, when the government introduced incentives for wealthy investors from Asia. But in the last six years, the wealth, and the spending spree, has grown to an overwhelming, and disturbing, degree.
We are seeing the impact all around us — locals who are driven out of their communities because they can’t afford to rent or buy; mom and pop businesses closing down, the new type of wealthy-class businesses opening up. Small communities such as Victoria, or even around Nanaimo, are noticing the inflow of offshore money. In northern BC, Chinese companies are buying up mines, pulp and paper mills, farmland, and other asset properties.
Of course, the problem is that our government is allowing the buying spree to continue unabated, without regulations to limit the buying and protect locals from being shoved out of the market, and their communities. In the process, they’re leaving a huge amount of money on the table in the form of taxes that aren’t being paid, either as undeclared income, or property transfer taxes, or capital gains.
They’ve left us to the mercy of market forces, and they’re defiantly quiet on the topic. It makes me wonder if they’ve got a Plan B — or is this it? Our economy is now based on the continual tearing down and rebuilding of houses to serve as “safety deposit boxes” or “holding companies” for the world’s 1 per cent?
My story in the May issue of the Walrus attempts to cover all aspects of the situation, and forecast where we are headed. I wish I had a happier outcome, but at this pace, I don’t see it.
At least we’re talking about it now. We have that.

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