Reader Soapbox: Concern about foreign Chinese buyers in Vancouver based on facts

Debate about housing prices comes from full spectrum of community

Blaming Chinese For High House Prices in Vancouver Is Racist, April 6. Pretty strong stuff from Allen Garr last week.

Vancouverites are, it appears from Garrs column, a bunch of gullible racists wholl swallow any myth that comes their way, especially if it involves the Chinese menace. A pretty good story, if it were true.

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Lets start with a given: Vancouver, like every city, has no shortage of yahoos who are full of spite, cruelty and yes, racism. Just check out the comments section on any story on real estate. Its shameful to see this ugly face of hatred in our community.

But before we get our knickers in a twist about a race divide over real estate, lets take a closer look at some real myths.

Myth 1: People concerned about foreign buyers pushing our real estate market are white people who dont like Chinese people.

When I raised concerns over the impact of international transactions during the civic election campaign, the response was overwhelming and full-spectrum from across our entire community, because the problem is universal.

It was notable how concerned Canadian Chinese Vancouverites are about this difficult issue, and how optimistic and imaginative some of their solutions are. Many in this community, such as Susie Joe Dooner, expressed grave concern about the exodus of gifted young people they have seentheir own friends and family leaving their home city and province in despair of having a future here.

And it was this community which also expressed concern that our local real estate and development industry bears some responsibility for its aggressive marketing to foreign investors. Some cautioned that the scale of the potential market poses real hazards to a small city like Vancouver.

It is profoundly inaccurate to represent the public reservation about unregulated international capital in our housing market as having a racial bias, when the concern is universal.

Myth #2: Public perception about foreign investment in Vancouver is irrational and unsubstantiated, based on gossip and rumour.

Hello? Vancouver real estate made headlines around the world, shooting to the second least affordable city on the globe. Far less affordable than New York, London, or LA.

And the media have told us why in clear terms: international investmentspurred by Chinas new wealth. Heres a small sample of the headlines:

Bloomberg: Chinese Spreading Wealth Make Vancouver Homes Pricier than NYC

Wall Street Journal: Chinese Fuel Vancouver Home Boom

China Daily: Chinese Drive Up Vancouver Home Price

South China Morning Post: Chinese Love Affair with Canada Continues

Forbes (profiling Vancouver): Where Rich Chinese Are Buying Real Estate

Globe and Mail: Canadian Real Estate - A Piggy Bank for Chinese Investors

Business in Vancouver: Is China Really Buying Up Metro Vancouver?

BC Business: Chinas Real Estate Spree in Vancouver

Each article is well sourced with rich information from local realtors and industry analysts. Realtor after realtor describes at length the very substantial proportion of our market that is going to international buyers.

Finally, Governor of the Bank of Canada Mark Carney appeared in Vancouver last June, cautioning that (among other things) Asian investment has become a contributing factor bidding up the cost of our real estate.

How ironic for the public to now be called racist for believing the hype that the media and real estate industry peddled with unbridled enthusiasm a mere six months ago.

Now all these articles could be wrong. Fixed income portfolio manager Eric Lam thinks so. But is it racist to suggest they are right? Not at all, he says. Just wrong.

Yet inexplicably, our housing market went suddenly mad with speculation fuelled by an irrational confidence in an endless supply of prospective buyers. At precisely the time when the media showered us with stories of an endless supply of prospective buyers, in a different country.

The media presented solid evidence from credible sources, from which a rational person might reasonably conclude that foreign capital contributed to the insanity. Its fair to ask for hard data on what is happening, and to question the potential impact on our economic sustainability.

Whats not fair is for the good faith and bona fides of questioners to be impugned by a spurious accusation of racial malice.

Funnily enough, its only now that the public is questioning its practices that the real estate and development industry has hit full tilt back-pedal mode. Denial, denial, denial, with a helping of racial invective on the side.

Richest of all is the quote from Larry Beasley, identified by Garr as a former city planner, who dismisses public anxiety about international capital as bullshit, adding that its racist.

Interesting that Garr didnt mention that Beasley is now VP of Aquilini Developmentspart of the Aquilini Group reported in the media for inking its strategic partnership with Asian developers, and for its proposal to market the remaining Olympic Village condos towhere elseChina.

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Sandy Garossino is a former lawyer, businessperson, and co-founder of Vancouver Not Vegas. She ran for Vancouver City Council as an independent candidate in the recent civic elections, raising the issue of Vancouver's housing affordability crisis.

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