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Old 03-16-2015, 08:06 PM   #1
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The Decline of Vancouver

A well written blog about the decline of Vancouver. -sad to read the truth about the decline of my hometown.

? The Decline of Vancouver


Vancouver, once a city with its own unique spin on Canadian ideals and culture, is well on its way to becoming a vacation city for the world’s rich, its economy transforming into one predicated almost entirely on catering to their luxurious proclivities, and its citizens transformed into modern serfs permitted to live in smaller dwellings on the city’s periphery, if you’ll allow me to exaggerate for effect.

Hyperbole aside, consider this: the nature of serfdom was one where serfs, unable to acquire their own plot of productive land, worked and lived on the land of wealthy nobles whom they served. In Vancouver the average person who owns a detached home made more money from capital gains on their property, roughly $100,000 per year in the last decade or so, than the average Vancouverite made in income, roughly $65,000. At those rates, it’s effectively impossible for average people without seed capital to join in on the boons of the Vancouver property boom, and so their role in the city’s largest source of wealth generation, property ownership, becomes catering to those who can take part, selling to them luxury booze, food, cars, clothes, and even their bodies. We have two classes of society forming along a divide that is growingly difficult to cross.

Real estate appreciation is not unique to Vancouver. Calgary and San Francisco, for instance, have seen gains in the real estate market near Vancouver rates, but those gains were a result of booming economies and income growth in those areas from oil and tech respectively. Vancouver has experienced no commensurate economic or income boom. According to Teranet’s housing price index, over the past 5 years Vancouver’s property prices have grown by about 23% compared to about 16% in Calgary – this despite Calgary’s economic growth running near double that of Vancouver’s over the same period. With the decline of oil prices, Calgary’s real estate market has tanked, as it would in a rational market. It’s safe to say economic prosperity has little to do with our real estate market. Anyone arguing that Vancouver growth outpaced Calgary’s because it’s a nicer place to live should note that Vancouver has been a nicer place to live than Calgary for a few decades now – suffice it to say any difference between the cities’ populations as a result of such known factors would already have been accounted for in the base population.

Foreign ownership is, of course, the culprit. Beneficiaries of the property boom, homeowners, developers, and the politicians whom they finance, often claim that foreign ownership isn’t actually as big of a problem as we make it out to be. This category of people cherry pick misleading statistics propped up by biased stakeholders and lobbyists like real estate agent associations, and almost always has something to gain.

For instance, the CHMC released a survey in 2014 indicating that only 3.4 percent of property in Vancouver was owned by foreign buyers. Within days, this statistic quickly disseminated to newspapers and other media outlets as gospel truth and a cut and dry case that foreign ownership wasn’t actually affecting property prices.

There were several problems with this survey that the media largely ignored. One problem was that its figures excluded the tens of thousands of Canadians (30-50% of whom estimated to buy property in Vancouver) who bought their residency through the recently defunct Immigrant Investor Program. According to our Immigration Minister “There is little evidence that immigrant investors as a class are maintaining ties to Canada or making a positive economic contribution to the country”. Indeed, there is an estimated 300,000 – 400,000 Canadians living in China, the majority of whom are ethnic Chinese.

It’s worth noting that a large minority of immigrant investors fraudulently claimed they would move to Quebec upon residency in order to eschew the longer waits of moving to British Columbia, and subsequently purchased property in Vancouver. The funds generated from this program thus accrue to the Quebec government and represent billions of dollars in loss for B.C. Not only is BC absorbing a disproportionate number of wealthy migrants but its also not receiving its commensurate share of the proceeds as a result of fraud. That’s a whole other can of beans, though.

The second flaw with the CMHC report is that the 3.4 percent rate of foreign ownership is grossly underestimated even if you ignore the “bought” citizenship problem of above. If you consider that foreigners disproportionately buy detached homes as opposed to condos, the problem is further magnified. For instance, A 2011 study by Landcor Data showed that 74 per cent of luxury purchases in Richmond and Vancouver’s west side were by buyers with mainland Chinese names with no western variant. Julia Lau, a real estate agent in Vancouver, told the International Business Times that the figure is closer to 80 percent from her experience.

And then you have real estate agents and lawyers with no understanding of economics claiming that the influx of foreigners and property price boom is good for an economy. Real estate, unlike other forms of capital investment, is not productive – in that other than actually building a structure, it does not produce ongoing economic good the way a factory does. And yet journalists continue to reference the uninformed opinions of these “experts” and contribute to a nice echo chamber of convenient but completely baseless conjecture.

This is not about race. China happens to be the biggest country in the world and a flight away from our city, and thus represents the greatest influx of foreign buyers in Vancouver, but it is not Chinese people that are the problem. It is about a stream of wealthy elite corroding the vibrancy of Vancouver. The New York Times recently wrote an investigative piece about the growing problem of shady wealthy foreigners scooping up luxury property. The leading paper had no qualms about directly questioning the value of foreign real estate buyers with quotes like “this flood of capital has created colonies of the foreign super-rich, with the attendant resentments and controversies about class inequality made tangible in the glass and steel towers reordering urban landscapes.” I have yet to see a single comparable piece in any Canadian publication. Whether it is because of corruption, political correctness, lack of funds, or simply bad journalism, I am not sure. Sadly readers have to typically scroll down to the comments section of online publications to get any meaningful commentary on the facts.

The problem is not just home ownership, but the erosion of communities and the long-term viability of Vancouver’s economy. I work at a successful startup in Vancouver with growing revenues, employees, and capital – by all means the kind of success story that cities like to flaunt as a case study in creating the environmental conditions to support innovation and small business. But for all of the city’s celebration of our tech industry, nothing meaningful has been done to buttress it. Our choice to headquarter in Vancouver was based mostly on the city’s livability and proximity to the tech hub of Seattle. While Vancouver has an initial charm and beauty that draws in talent, eventually as that talent ages and wants the kinds of things most people do like a house and a family, many can’t afford to stay, and leave for places like Seattle or the east coast where the cost of living is lower and salaries higher. I personally know several people that fall into this camp - I have tried to hire them.

Recruiting talent to this city is easy, but retaining it is not. The engine of startups and innovative businesses are its people, and when highly educated folks making six figures still can’t afford to live in your city (and it takes over an hour’s commute to get to downtown from slightly more affordable areas), you simply don’t have the conditions to grow a knowledge economy. Businesses like the one I work for typically move to more welcoming ecosystems, and so too with them will go the people that make up the vibrancy of the city. Indeed since 2012 British Columbia has experienced a net migration loss of young people, largely speculated to be directly a result of housing prices.

Entire downtown neighbourhoods and chunks of the west side are growingly becoming ghost towns as permanent residents are replaced with investors who don’t occupy their units. Local shops on the west side are going out of business because fewer and fewer people actually live there for most of the year, if at all. There is an eerie feeling you get walking in between the dozens of Coal Harbour’s high-rises at night. Despite the density of buildings, hardly anyone else roams the streets. By 2013 estimates, one quarter of condo units in that neighbourhood were unoccupied.

And yet we celebrate. Boomers who were lucky enough to buy in the 80s and 90s are millionaires several times over, and they and their children will largely live comfortably. A massive capital injection from abroad makes Vancouverites feel wealthy, while the city is in no real terms wealthier. Talented people continue to leave and with them the future of our city.

We’ve reached an almost criminal point of misinformation and political correctness. Picture an elephant in the room. This elephant has a large bed sheet poorly covering half it’s body. Most in the room say “hey look it’s an elephant.” Property owners say “no, we can’t be sure it’s an elephant, there’s a bed sheet covering part of it”. Politicians say “we can’t be sure it’s an elephant, we need to study it more”. And developers say “we did a survey and concluded it’s a hamster.”
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:08 PM   #2
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TLDR.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:16 PM   #3
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Read the first two paragraphs, realized I already knew everything else this essay had to tell me.

Nothing new, but no less sad
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:25 PM   #4
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Nicely written. Same old story.

Move if prople can't afford it.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:32 PM   #5
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Last paragraph sums up the real estate crooked system.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:34 PM   #6
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TLDR.
TLDR: Mainlanders
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:45 PM   #7
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The same sentiment was present in the early 90's, when HK investors started jacking up the property value. Ironically, I find a lot of those HK immigrants now feel the same way about "immigrants" from China.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:52 PM   #8
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The same sentiment was present in the early 90's, when HK investors started jacking up the property value. Ironically, I find a lot of those HK immigrants now feel the same way about "immigrants" from China.
The difference is, most of the HK investors actually lived in their homes. Sure they brought part of their culture with them (hence Ricemond) but they still stayed and contributed to Canada.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:56 PM   #9
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We didn't see it that way initially but yes, for the most part it did end up that way.
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Old 03-16-2015, 09:11 PM   #10
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Actually read through this whole thing on the initial Tumblr post. Made a lot of sense, the guy is making a completely relevant argument. It's definitely a sad reality...
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Old 03-16-2015, 09:57 PM   #11
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We didn't see it that way initially but yes, for the most part it did end up that way.
Which is why, looking back, any negative sentiment had more to do with xenophobia than actual facts.
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Old 03-16-2015, 11:07 PM   #12
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It is somehow tied into our party culture and the resulting promiscuity you see in this city full of singles...


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Old 03-17-2015, 12:36 AM   #13
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The difference is, most of the HK investors actually lived in their homes. Sure they brought part of their culture with them (hence Ricemond) but they still stayed and contributed to Canada.
That's because at the time, Canada was much better than HK and anyone who immigrated/invested from hk to Canada would be foolish to stay in HK compared to Canada. Now HK's economy is doing better than Canada and people can't find jobs, Hongers are moving back. They get to keep their cheap Canadian education, keep their citizenship for benefits, keep their passports but live in HK and will probably return to Canada to retire and live off the social system without contributing to it.
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:37 AM   #14
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Another anti-immigrant whiner

Even if we ban all foreigners and they were the reason house prices are up and NOT historical low interest rates. I'm willing to wage that even if single family detached homes dropped a magical 50% most Canadians (especially the ones who whine about the chinese on newspaper article comment sections) can't afford one anyway
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:48 AM   #15
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move to surrey. problem solved
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:57 AM   #16
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^ Above people not born in Vancouver
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Old 03-17-2015, 01:09 AM   #17
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Sad but true. In Singapore, only citizens may buy property. But to even try to discuss the topic here would be labelled instantly as "xenophobia", "closed-mindedness", and/or "discriminatory".

Welcome to the future. Where we - collectively - have the power and freedom to rise up and fight against negative change, but refuse to do it for fear of offending the unknown other. GG

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Old 03-17-2015, 01:19 AM   #18
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Welcome to the future. Where we - collectively - have the power and freedom to rise up and fight against negative change, but refuse to do it for fear of offending the unknown other. GG

Speak for yourself, if you have the money Vancouver is paradise


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Old 03-17-2015, 02:59 AM   #19
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The message is well communicated, but there are contradictions within the blog posting and it only tells one side of the story.

But, the message is true. Vancouver used to be a wonderful place to live, it has deteriorated over the last 15 years.
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Old 03-17-2015, 03:31 AM   #20
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That's because at the time, Canada was much better than HK and anyone who immigrated/invested from hk to Canada would be foolish to stay in HK compared to Canada. Now HK's economy is doing better than Canada and people can't find jobs, Hongers are moving back. They get to keep their cheap Canadian education, keep their citizenship for benefits, keep their passports but live in HK and will probably return to Canada to retire and live off the social system without contributing to it.
How does this relate to anything in this thread?
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:20 AM   #21
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How does this relate to anything in this thread?
Because you stated that hongers have actually contributed to society as opposed to the mainlanders when in fact hongers just had a longer game plan. Hongers buying up property, raising the prices, gaining citizenship and paying cheap tuition all to just leave after they benefited is another reason why Vancouver is declining. It's the brain drain that also hinders Vancouver's growth

If You can't see how that is also aiding to the decline of Vancouver, I'm not sure if you are blind or just trolling, I hope the latter.
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:41 AM   #22
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The scariest part of all this is the fact that people are gaining access to the healthcare system when they pay very little into the tax system that supports it.

it may not be a problem now (the healthcare system is so-so), but in 10, 20 years, i fear there may be real decreases in levels of care. we can only hope technology allows for greater efficiency, but we cannot rely on this.

I'm of the opinion that one should have to pay for holding multiple passports. I hold two, and I would accept if each country said "pick one, or pay for both" (of course, assuming you live in one of the two countries, you'd be paying tax there, thus paying that way).

As it stands, I, like millions of HK, Chinese, and others, hold a Cdn passport and another passport, work outside of Canada, pay taxes to other governments, but have the freedom to retire in Canada. This is BS. I am not Canadian, and whilst I have paid plenty into the pot and integrated into Cdn society when living there, I still do not think it is right that I have the ability to come back to Canada at 50 when I retire and get free healthcare (for the record, this is not my plan).

Everyone bitches at the US system where citizens have to pay US tax even as non residents (when they earn a certain amount) - personally, I don't see the problem - don't like it, give up your US citizenship (like many have done), and never return, if you plan on returning, you're just paying for future services (roads, schools, etc) used.

I know not 100% related to this article, but it is a connected problem. The servitude of the non-immigrant, and non-wealthy immigrant class will continue through retirement as the wealthy immigrants take their free healthcare after $0 contribution.

We've all seen the statistics that wealthy immigrants add very little to the economy through income taxes, whereas working class immigrants do (as they have to work!) - yes there are other taxes, but an investor immigration program is crap - canada needs workers and their kids (next generation of canadians), not rich people and retired people as immigrants.
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:41 AM   #23
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Because you stated that hongers have actually contributed to society as opposed to the mainlanders when in fact hongers just had a longer game plan. Hongers buying up property, raising the prices, gaining citizenship and paying cheap tuition all to just leave after they benefited is another reason why Vancouver is declining. It's the brain drain that also hinders Vancouver's growth

If You can't see how that is also aiding to the decline of Vancouver, I'm not sure if you are blind or just trolling, I hope the latter.
They did/do... I was just pointing out that it's different from the current situation. About 30K people have left for various reason... As for when or if they'll come back, that depends on the situation of each of these 30,000 reverse migrants. The way things are going, I expect quite a few of them to go back to Canada once again. The whole reason for the 90's mass exodus in the first place is finally coming true, and it's happening rapidly.

Unlike the current situation in the OP, these people aren't maliciously taking advantage of the system. They're just acting in their best interest, as Canadians. Hell I did the same thing, and I'll probably move back eventually once things here completely turn to shit. That doesn't mean I'm maliciously ripping off Canada. It just means I am living the way I want to live - the one thing that is truly great about being Canadian.
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:46 AM   #24
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It's nice to say the foreign investors are the cause of this, and to some degree, they probably are. (Though I believe they are only buying the "luxury homes")

Having said that, perhaps consider the below;

Canadian Banks ? disturbing valuations : The Joy of Investing

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A good part of this story, of course, is the CMHC balance sheet having grown at a ridiculous rate in the last decade. The Canadian banks, able to pass risk off to taxpayers via CMHC, have simply been writing as many mortgages as CMHC is willing to insure. Sounds familiar? The exact same thing happened in the US of course, except that the players were different. Mortgages were packaged, and risk was passed on to taxpayers via Fannie and Freddie, to foreign investors and domestic institutions via securitization. It sure doesn’t take a genius to figure out if and whether CMHC has been charging the correct premiums to undertake the risk. The good news is that the government took steps in 2012 to limit the growth of CMHC insurance, and credit to the new CEO of CMHC Evan Siddall, who recently said publicly that banks should share the risk on home mortgages. Lawrence Schembri also said recently that taxpayers are exposed to too much risk. CMHC has also started to hike premiums (increased 15% May 1 this year) and stopped offering insurance on second homes. These actions are perhaps almost a clear admission that they wrote a whole bunch of insurance policies at the wrong price. the only question is, is it too little too late?


CMHC is legislated to only insure a maximum of 600B in mortgage loans, they are extremely close to that limit. (Approx. 566B today)

+ Canadian debt to income ratio at an all time high.
+ Probably no less than 1/4 of people who own houses are renting their basment out at 1000-1500/month.

So who's responsible for the current financial situation in Canada? Canadians are responsible, developers are responsible, banks are responsible, and politicians are responsible.

The Gov/Banks enabled a small number of people to get extremely wealthy, while allowing a large number of people to take on an insane amount of debt. Now when the train comes off the tracks the Gov will likely bail people out and the taxpayers will be left to foot that bill while the rich bankers and developers sip martinis in Monaco.

So sure, you can blame foreign investors, but the numbers/data suggest it's more a situation of domestic greed and stupidity.
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Old 03-17-2015, 09:02 AM   #25
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It's not just Vancouver, happening in other countries as well. Love how other countries can figure it out but we turn a blind eye to it.

Surge in Chinese housebuying spurs global backlash

Surge in Chinese housebuying spurs global backlash:

Spoiler!



At least in Australia they are putting more restrictions in place, where our politicians just ignore the problem.

Australia plans to charge fees to foreigners buying real estate | Reuters

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Feb 25 (Reuters) - Australia plans to charge fees to foreign nationals buying residential property and fine those who break foreign investment laws, in an attempt to improve housing affordability amid some of the world's highest property prices.

The scheme could raise about A$200 million a year by charging foreign home-buyers A$5,000 for properties valued under A$1 million and an additional A$10,000 for every additional A$1 million, Treasurer Joe Hockey said on Wednesday.

Hockey said a register of foreign nationals buying real estate would be established and those who break the law would face a fine up to a quarter of the value of the property and could be forced to sell.



Australian property has long been a popular choice for Chinese money - both legitimate and illegitimate - but the flow of investment appears to have accelerated.

Australia's foreign investment review board says China was the No.1 source of foreign capital investment in real estate in 2013, approving nearly A$6 billion ($5.58 billion) of investment, up 41 percent from a year ago.

Chinese investors are forecast to spend $20 billion on offshore property this year, up 21 percent on 2014 as more domestic real estate developers and insurers internationalise their holdings.

More wealthy Chinese are moving their money out of China to invest in Australia's property market as a corruption crackdown in the world's second biggest economy gathers momentum, property consultants and lawyers said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the fees and fines will bring Australia into line with other countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand, and will enforce a set of rules already in place but never enforced.

"The idea is not to deter foreign investment, the idea is to ensure that the rules are enforced," Abbott told reporters.

Australia's two biggest cities Sydney and Melbourne, home to a third of the country's 23.6 million population, rank in the world's six least affordable places to buy a home, according to U.S. urban planning researcher Demographia.

Prices in Sydney rose more than 13 percent in the year to October, prompting many media reports of foreigners snapping up properties.

A rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia earlier this month added to concerns that the country's high residential property prices will continue to rise.

Treasurer Joe Hockey added that foreign ownership of real estate "raises significant issues ranging from national security to potential criminal activity, money laundering and a range of other things".
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