News / Vancouver

B.C. won’t act on report that shows Chinese buyers' impact on Vancouver real estate

A new report by Andy Yan at Bing Thom Architects found people with Chinese names bought two thirds of homes in a luxury Vancouver neighbourhood over six months.

A house sold in Vancouver's heated real estate market.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

A house sold in Vancouver's heated real estate market.

The province has no plans to immediately act on a new report that revealed the impact of Chinese buyers on Vancouver’s expensive west side real estate market.

B.C. politicians reacted Monday to research released by Bing Thom Architects urban planner Andy Yan, whose analysis of the 172 single-family homes sold over six months in the city’s ritziest neighbourhoods for a combined $520 million found that people with non-Anglicized Chinese names bought two thirds of the homes.

Homemaker was the top occupation listed by buyers of these luxury homes worth more than $1.5 million.

The case study provides some data on the controversial question of whether foreign buyers are parking cash in real estate and pushing locals out of the market.

But B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong questioned the data. Premier Christy Clark has previously estimated that foreign buyers account for only five per cent of real estate transactions.

“We’ve got to be a little bit careful on the conclusions we draw,” de Jong said, noting its small sample size.

While there’s an opportunity to share information between governments to get a more complete picture, he said, B.C. won’t decide until budget time whether it will act to cool the market with something like a higher property transfer tax on luxury properties.

NDP MLA David Eby, who helped Yan get the data, acknowledged the flaws with the case study, especially using names to determine where a person is from. But Eby said the province has refused to release more accurate data it already collects.

He wants the province to start learning from other cities impacted by global wealth such as Sydney and London.

“Instead of doing that, our province is insisting there’s absolutely nothing to see here and everyone should just move along,” Eby said, adding the absence of data leads to speculation fueled by racism.

Yan agrees that the province needs to show leadership and hand over more data so people can have an educated discussion.

In the meantime, his study followed best practices using the best data available.  

He was surprised to find 82 per cent of homes were mortgaged, countering the perception that people are coming off airplanes and paying for houses with cash. Instead, it points to a sophisticated credit system.

He was also surprised to see how many students and homemakers bought luxury homes.

“The implicit issue is whether wages versus wealth is determining the real estate market,” he said.

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