Anti-money laundering expert Christine Duhaime volunteers for committee to determine “foreignness of the money” affecting Vancouver real estate

Dollars, credit Desmog blog CanadaToday during a Twitter discussion, barrister and anti-money-laundering expert Christine Duhaime volunteered to participate in a committee determining the “foreignness of the money” affecting Vancouver real estate.

She wrote, “I’ll join in & volunteer to participate in a committee determining the ‘foreignness of the money.’ ” At the bottom of this post, we compile a list (from reporter Ian Young) of some data items that such a committee might look at.

Such a committee has yet to be created, but CityHallWatch strongly supports its creation, as soon as possible, consisting of a good balance of experts who are independent from political and industry influence. It must be able to stand up to scrutiny and to maintain the public trust. Any politicians who oppose efforts to get better data might be good candidates in the next elections — candidates for replacement.

Ms. Duhaime’s offer is in the context of the ongoing debate and wave of public attention associated with the #donthave1million movement under the banner “Vancouverites for Affordable Housing.” Industry has responded aggressively, in what almost appears to be a coordinated fashion to deflect discussions. The Urban Development Institute (UDI) — a construction industry lobby organization — has weighed in, saying the problem is excessive costs for industry plus lack of housing supply, so the solution is — guess what — more construction. British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) using data (including census data four years old) in its “Market Implications of Foreign Buyers” report (download PDF) asserts that “foreign buyers have a small impact on the market,” which gets prominent coverage (e.g., Metro News, News 1130). The same numbers are repeated by government officials to justify their inaction.

Reporter Ian Young of the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong paper) repeatedly shreds the figures and claims of real estate industry proponents, for example Vancouver’s housing crisis: No, not like before, and not like anywhere else (except Hong Kong) (SCMP, 3-June-2015). See also http://www.scmp.com/comment/blogs/article/1819499/exposing-bogus-analysis-ignores-role-foreign-money-vancouvers-housing

Below are selections from a recent flow of Twitter exchange. In it, Mr. Young articulates some of the data lacking from the current debate. The public should step up its pressure on our governments to get that information and make it available publicly as soon as possible. At the very bottom is a full list of Mr. Young’s requested data.

(Interesting: “It just takes one wealthy buyer and an inflated offer to set the price for the other “95%” of locals.”)

(Interesting that some listings are not even made available to the local market. How about getting statistics on how often that happens. And how many directly property sales are completed without getting registered by MLS?)

Needed: A comprehensive assessment of the impact of wealth-determined immigration on Vancouver real estate.

Needed: Consideration of sales to new arrivals per year, PLUS sales to previous arrivals that same year…

Needed: Consideration of sales value, so we can see impact as percent of money in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver City…

Needed: Citizenship, immigration status, and means of funding purchase (local income vs foreign income/wealth)…

How: If info can’t be directly collected, calculate it in way to satisfy third party. A third party, like UBC professor David Ley…. though “citizenship and immigration status really aren’t as important as determining source of money used to buy…

Everyone wants real estate data. This is the data Ian Young wants (image converted to text, converted to bullet points, and selectively bolded):

  • I want a comprehensive assessment of the impact of wealth-determined immigration on Vancouver’s real estate market.
  • I want consideration of sales to new weafth-determined arrivals/year, PLUS sales to previous such arrivals, regardless of current citizenship/residency, made that same year (since weafth-determined breadwinners NEVER go on to earn more than a pittance in Canada, their lifetime purchases can reasonably be assumed to be foreign funded, even if it means they are selling a local home to buy another local home).
  • I want consideration of sales made to wealth-determined arrivals who came to Canada as children, but are now adults with little or no local Canadian income (at least, a proportional calculation, if it’s determined some are funding purchases with local income).
  • I want consideration of sales value, so we can see impact as % of $ in Metro Van and Van City markets.
  • If info can’t be directly collected, calculate it in a way to satisfy a smart and impartial third party. Say, Prof David Ley of UBC.
  • In fact, I’d like all the data, regardless of how it is collected or calculated, to be assessed by such an independent third party.
  • It wouldn’t hurt to collect info on the citizenship/dual citizenship/ immigration/ residency status of purchasersBut ultimately, the foreignness of the buyer does not really matter, except insofar as it might reflect the foreignness of their money.
  • I don’t really care about what sort of person buys in Vancouver. I care about what sort of money buys in Vancouver.

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