The realisation that something is grotesquely awry with Vancouver’s housing market has reached a tipping point.
Fuelled by the special sauce of Chinese wealth – and good old Fear of Missing Out – prices are now at levels that have decoupled from the local economy, with an average detached price of about C$1.4 million (HK$8.9 million). So far, so normal for Vancouver.
But the past couple of months have witnessed a kind of awakening.
Eveline Xia – herself a Chinese immigrant – helped get the ball rolling with her very first tweet on March 18, in which the 29-year-old environmental scientist created the hashtag #donthave1million, and posted a plaintive cry about the drain of young Vancouverites being priced out of the city she loves. “To thrive, does @CityofVancouver not need people like you and me?” she asked.
It hit a nerve. Fellow millennials jumped on board #donthave1million, posting their own tales of real estate woe.
… The various online and media rumblings will take solid form at a rally for affordable housing in downtown Vancouver on Sunday at noon. [Note: Sunday, May 24, at Vancouver Art Gallery]
… So, Vancouver has recently received more wealth-determined migration than any other city in the world, by a long stretch. This, in a city with some of the lowest incomes in Canada.
… Foreign buyers probably aren’t to blame for Vancouver’s unaffordability. But foreign money probably is. And cracking down on the foreignness of funds will prove much harder than dealing with the foreignness of buyers, even if the will to do so exists.
… Yet it would be a mistake to weigh the issue in cold terms of winners and losers, cost and benefit because it is a fundamental matter of fairness. Is it fair that so many people have been so vastly enriched, through no great credit of their own, at the expense of so many who have been impoverished, ruined, or simply forced out of their city, through no great fault of their own?
The dividing line isn’t one of intelligence, or diligence, or any other worthiness – mainly, it’s a demarcation of age, between those who were old enough to have bought before the wildest market rises, and those who were not.
Wherever you stand on the matter, the time for denialism is over. At the very least, Vancouver deserves its longoverdue debate about the root causes of the unaffordability crisis, and what to do about it.
Mr. Young analyzes some of the theories being advanced for the unaffordability, as well as the policy issues at stake. Read the full article here: