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Yet the self-same conditions are adding handsomely to the net worth of millions of homeowners, and supporting a constellation of housing-related industries, from real estate sales to interior decoration.
For structures completed since 2010, that number climbs to six per cent.“We’re bringing in people who just want to park their money here,” says Justin Fung, a software engineer and second-generation Chinese-Canadian who counts himself among those frustrated by Vancouver’s surreal housing market.“They’re driving up housing prices and simply treat this city as a resort.” Yet the amphetamine rush of Chinese cash has been felt far beyond the disappearing pastures of the Fraser Valley—especially in the last couple of years.The author of that report, an urban planning professor named Andy Yan, interpreted that to mean the buyers were new arrivals.That assumption was enough to draw accusations of racism, but Yan was undaunted, telling CBC, “It’s about the message, not one messenger.” At least part of the message is beyond dispute: the cash flowing out of China into assets around the world has hit tsunami proportions, driven by fears of a slowing economy and a declining currency.Or with Chinese Canadians who spend part of the year outside the country?
Yet even the crudest measurements suggest a breathtaking upsurge in interest that would rate Canada’s big cities on par with London and New York in the eyes of Chinese buyers.
Last spring, the 39-year-old left behind his middle-management advertising job in Shanghai to seek the dream of home ownership he and his wife couldn’t afford in their home city.
“We just followed our hearts to begin a totally different life,” he tells , adding: “We can make the house dream come true in Canada.” The starting point was one-half of a modest duplex near downtown Victoria, close to the university where his wife is seeking a master’s degree, and priced about right for their limited means.
Paul Shen can tick off the reasons Mainland Chinese people buy property in Canada as surely as any fast-talking B. The richest, of course, regard homes in the West as stable vessels for disposable cash, but Shen lays no claim to such affluence.
Some long to escape the fouled earth and soupy air of their country’s teeming cities, he explains, while others are following relatives to enclaves so well-populated by other Chinese expats they hardly feel like foreigners.
CMHC’s plan now is to produce a more comprehensive report by the fourth quarter of this year, says chief economist Bob Dugan, capturing not just condominiums but all forms of residential property. Gathering the data requires co-operation on the part of everyone from provincial property registries to local realtors—not all of whom are eager to shed light on their lucrative sources of new-found income.