Meet the wealthy immigrants at the centre of Vancouver’s housing debate

Good in-depth profile of some of the background and stories regarding mainland Chinese immigrants:

The mainlanders are the most recent of several waves of Chinese immigration to Vancouver. But they are not from the places familiar to Vancouverites for the past 160 years, like rural Guangdong, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

The 139,890 who have arrived since 2000, according to federal statistics, are from Nanjing, Shanghai, Harbin, Beijing, Guangzhou, Qingdao.

And they are a kind of immigrant Canada has not seen before, at least not in these numbers. They are here with money and confidence after surfing the wave of one of the world’s biggest economic booms, the result of people from Regina to Rome buying stuff stamped “Made in China.” The boom produced 3.6 million millionaires by 2014, up from 2.4 million in 2013.

…But they wonder why Canadians are ready to take their money for their houses – perhaps more money than they thought they would ever get – and then complain.

“A woman I know, her house cost $400,000 19 years ago and she sold the house for more than $2-million. She was happy, she has a studio now for her painting,” Sherry Qin said over coffee at UBC’s Old Barn Community Centre with three of her friends, including Ms. Yin. They like to gather here because one member of the group lives in a townhouse nearby.

And they do not understand why, if Canadians do not like the way things are, their governments will not change the rules – for investment, for preserving old houses, for citizenship, for paying taxes, for charges on vacant houses – instead of blaming newcomers.

And they were as divided as others over B.C.’s new tax for foreign buyers. Sherry Qin said B.C. should remain a free market. Anita He said it will send a message to all Chinese: “We don’t like you.” Alan Yu said it was a good idea. “I think it’s good to suppress the speculation in the real-estate market and it helps to fulfill the needs of affordable housing. I hope it could lower the housing price in Vancouver.”

But such government regulation is not new to them.

Chinese cities, which control who can be defined as a legal resident, are imposing their own restrictions. Shanghai has strict rules. In February, after house prices had jumped by 21 per cent in the previous years, it tightened the approvals for non-resident buyers even more.

Vancouver’s new arrivals also are puzzled why Canadians complain about wealthy people moving here when their government decided which kinds of immigrants it wanted.

“The government just chose rich people so they have lots of money,” said Mr. Liu, who immigrated to Canada in 2005 through the skilled-worker stream, not as an investor, even though he owned a chain of Best Buy-like stores in China. He is doing well, with a home he bought in Kerrisdale so the family could be close to Crofton House, where his daughter went to school.

(The proportion of immigrant-investors to Canada never exceeded more than 4.1 per cent of the total number of permanent residents. About 8,500 immigrant investors came from mainland China to B.C. between 2000 and 2015, along with 23,000 family members. In the same period, B.C. accepted 23,000 skilled workers and their 33,000 family members.)

Source: Meet the wealthy immigrants at the centre of Vancouver’s housing debate – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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