Petition to restrict foreign ownership in Vancouver

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Image: Craig Paterson / Flickr

Vancouver housing prices have been growing at an alarming rate for the past few years, and now finally, residents are getting fed up with the lack of action from political leaders to dissuade foreign ownership.

A new Change.org petition calls for action from Premier Christy Clark, Mayor Gregor Robertson and mayors and city councillors of Metro Vancouver to restrict foreign investment in Vancouver’s residential real estate market.

“It’s time to stand up and protect our community—Vancouver is not for sale,” the petition reads. “The housing needs of Greater Vancouver residents are more important than the profit margins of foreign speculators.”

The brief petition by a resident by the name of JW Gamal does not offer any suggestions on how to curb the influx of foreign ownership. It currently has 218 supporters out of a necessary 500.

One Vancouver resident and supporter of the petition, Sylvia H., feels very strongly about the issue pushing born-and-bred Vancouverites out of their home.

“We can’t just sit back and complain about it and do nothing.  As the electorate, we should be demanding that the government do something about this to preserve our communities for future generations.  If nothing is done about this now, it is entirely possible that the Lower Mainland may be substantially foreign-owned in the next 10 – 20 years,” she says.

“No one born and raised here will be able to buy anything – the next generation will all be renting from foreign landlords who will charge exorbitant rates of rent – because they will be able to – and because we allowed them to come and buy the entire Lower Mainland.”

Sylvia also makes a timely observation on how overseas buyers are ballooning wider problems in the city, including congestion.

Foreign ownership is driving up house prices, which forces local families to look further and further away to find affordable housing. That means they will probably be reliant on a vehicle to get anywhere, which contributes to road congestion, and which is why we are now at the place we are at with a transit plebiscite. In my mind it is all connected.”

Even more than the cause-and-effect scenario Sylvia plays out, is the moral issue at hand. In 2014, a leaked report from China’s central bank reported that 18,000 officials and employees of state-owned enterprises illicitly acquired over $123 billion US and fled to countries such as Canada, the U.S., Australia and the Netherlands.

In a Huffington Post blog, National Post editor-at-large, Diane Francis aptly summarized how so many wealthy Chinese are getting into the Canadian housing market.

“The goal is to buy a condo or luxury goods with funds from a trust managed by a shell company in Grand Cayman, owned by another trust in Guernsey with an account in Luxembourg managed by a Swiss banker who doesn’t know who the owner is.”

Though Canada does not keep public data on foreign ownership, making it one of the few in the world not to do so, numerous studies on Vancouver’s housing prices have pointed to overseas money as a large reason why housing prices have increased by up to 50 per cent in some neighbourhoods.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that over 35 per cent of units in the Vancouver House condominium development have been sold to foreigners. Developers are even going as far to advertise Vancouver real estate developments overseas, such as the Vancouver House ad spotted last fall in Taipei. And on Tuesday, Vancity Buzz reported a Shaughnessy mansion just sold for $2 million over its $5.99 million asking price.

The Vancouverites for Affordable Housing organization is now planning an Affordable Housing Rally to take place on Sunday, May 24 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
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