Trump called it the ‘China virus’. Then the ‘Kung Flu’. And so anti-Asian racism truly ignited. It was okay to blame them. The president did.
Since then the push-back has been palpable after thousands of reported hate incidents. Sadly, most of those in Canada happened in one province. You know which one. Reading this blog will tell you. Real estate started that. Covid just made it worse. Acceptable, even.
Did you catch the latest in pretty little Penticton? Some rich (white) dude owns a mega-house there which seems to be a work of art. Insanely meticulous in detail and architecturally bold. It’s also for sale, asking $12.8 million. But that buys you $1 million worth of marble, another million in furnishings and an emerald-green marble-floored garage with a vehicle turntable for your Porsche. Oh, and a view.
Rich homeowning dude likely didn’t expect the local reaction when he hired Vancouver-based realtors Kevin Chen and Matt Zhang to market his place last year. Since the property was featured a few months ago in a Van-based online mag, things have gone downhill fast. The assumption of people seems to be that ‘Chinese’ agents = ‘Chinese’ owner = money laundering.
On Saturday, for example, Chen received an email suggesting he “should be shot” and there would be “dire consequences” if he didn’t return to China. But Kevin grew up in Canada. Same for Matt, who’s been here his entire life.
“At the end of the day we’re just the agents who are listing it” Zhang told the Penticton paper. “The owner is Canadian and we have verified the source. The client wanted to sell his dream home, and we’re here to market it to our best ability, it’s as simple as that. When you start bringing race into it and all these negative stigmas toward a certain race and just assuming that this person is Chinese and has dirty, laundered money, that’s where you cross the line… you’re just assuming those things because it’s expensive.”
Well, you can see the problem. It’s one thing to hate the commies in China. It’s not the same thing to diss a Canadian who looks Chinese. In some parts of BC this stereotyping seems ubiquitous and usually centres around real estate. It’s a public meme that high house prices were set at the margin by rich, offshore owners and their satellite families. Follower politicians like the NDP’s David Eby – now BC’s attorney-general – have been instrumental in the passage of anti-foreigner taxes and a current witch-hunt inquiry into laundering. The Penticton emails seem to be a direct result.
So, time for some facts.
Here’s what BC government stats reveal about levels of foreign ownership in that province, which passed its first anti-Chinese-dude tax in 2016. Three years ago just 2.4% of property purchases in British Columbia were made by foreigners. In 2019, this fell further – to 1.17%. Then Covid hit, immigration levels tumbled by two-thirds and the number of deals attributed to non-Canadians amounted to…zero. Well, close to nothing at 0.56%.
And what percentage of detached homes (in total) in Vancouver is owned by non-BC residents – including folks from Alberta, the US and the rest of the country? According to StatsCanada, it’s just over 3%, which means 97% of all homes are in the hands of BCers.
Okay, so immigration tanked during the pandemic. Purchases of local real estate by foreigners (including Americans as well as Chinese) dropped to almost zero. Meanwhile BC has in place its anti-foreigner tax, an anti-Albertan speculation tax and a vacant house tax, just to make sure the property market is tilted against non-residents.
The market must have tanked with all those Chinese guys locked out, right?
Actually since the barriers to foreign buyers were put in place, Van real estate has jumped about 40% in value. And last month? “Home buyer and seller activity reached unprecedented levels across Metro Vancouver in March,” says the realtor board. Sales were up 126% year/year with the benchmark price of a detached home jumping 18% to an historic $1.7 million.
“In March, residents bought and listed homes across our region at levels not seen before. This surge in activity is increasing upward pressure on prices. We’re beginning to see double-digit price gains for single-family homes and townhomes over the last 12 months,” said head realtor Taylor Biggar. “Today’s activity can be attributed, in part, to an economy that’s showing signs of recovery, historically low interest rates, high demand for space, and increased household savings.”
People believe what they wish to believe. If something supports the narrative in their brain, they’ll accept it. If the facts don’t fit, they’re discarded. With real estate on a tear and the wealth divide growing dangerously wide, the virus has dished up another reason for prejudice. After all, if someone has more than you they must have stolen it, right? It’s a stain on our nation than an entire provincial government has sunk to this level.
If nobody’s done this yet, Mr. Chen, let me say it. I apologize.
Now, here’s that bitchin’ turntable.
About the picture: “Here is a picture of my dog Xyla who loves to climb mountains,” writes Jason. “We try to get out almost every week, even during winter and contrary to popular opinion there isn’t usually enough snow to ski in the front ranges of the east Rockies by Calgary. This picture was taken on a mountain called Loder Peak, feel free to use it on your website. Thanks for writing almost every day, I wish more places wrote without worrying who they might offend!”
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