The New York Times today (Feb . 7, 2015) published “The Hidden Money Buying Up New York Real Estate” as the first article in a five-part series based on extensive research about who is buying premium real estate. For more than a year, paper “examined the influx of global cash fueling the New York City’s high-end real estate boom,” and found that:
- “Nearly half of the most expensive residential properties in the United States are now purchased anonymously through shell companies.”
- “The real estate industry does little examination of buyers’ identities or backgrounds, and there is no legal requirement for it to do so.”
- “The investigation pierced the secrecy of more than 200 shell companies to examine a decade of ownership at the Time Warner Center, an iconic building alongside Central Park. At least 16 foreign owners there have been the subject of government inquiries, either personally or as heads of companies. Four have been arrested, and another four have been subject to fines or penalties.”
- The article starts by showing the percent of residences owned by shell companies in certain towers: Bloomberg Tower (57%), The Plaza (69%), One57 (77%), Time Warner Center (64%), Trump International (57%), 15 Central Park West (58%).
AND NOW, we pause to ask about Metro Vancouver. We know that many properties and developments are owned by numbered companies. We know that as other jurisdictions tighten up their scrutiny and restrictions on absentee buyers, Vancouver and the region are doing nothing, making people here more vulnerable and being forced to compete with anonymous and enormous sources of cash from around the world. Rezoning and development applications often do not reveal who is behind them. Wills and land titles go missing. City staff don’t seem to ask, and the public is often not told.
So let’s ask some questions.
- To what extent are shell companies, money laundering, and dirty money, pushing up land and housing prices in our own region and communities?
- Are the vacant condos and houses in Vancouver a symptom of a problem?
- What resources did The New York Times need to do this research? Who in British Columbia might have the motivation and resources to do a similar study here? Municipal or provincial governments? Mainstream media like the Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, The Province, National Post? What will it take to get proper research done on these issues in Vancouver and the entire region?
- With the City of Vancouver engaged in secret land swaps undisclosed to the public (e.g., with 508 Helmcken, with details only disclosed through intensive efforts using the courts and access to information legislation), are inappropriate deals being made?
- The City is also actually enabling land assembly, as in the deal proposed for a rezoning in Cedar Cottage — selling public land to a developer named Cressey for land assembly.
Links to The New York Times articles:
Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York Real Estate
By LOUISE STORY and STEPHANIE SAULFEB. 7, 2015
TOWERS OF SECRECY
Articles in this series examine people behind shell companies buying high-end real estate.
Time Warner Center: Symbol of the Boom
Monday (Feb 9)
The Mysterious Malaysian Financier
Tuesday (Feb 10)
The Besieged Indian Builder
Wednesday (Feb 11)
The Mexican Power Brokers
Thursday (Feb 12)
The Russian Minister and Friends
Summary (Feb 13)
The Hidden Money Buying Up New York Real Estate