Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says sky-high real-estate prices "not a race issue"

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      Mayor Gregor Robertson has called for calm in the red-hot debate around rising prices in Vancouver’s real-estate market.

      “We do need far better federal and provincial tracking of data on international investment and absentee ownership,” he said in a statement released today (November 2).

      “What we don't need, however, is the blaming of any one group of people - or any one kind of last name - for the challenge of housing affordability,” Robertson continued.

      “This is a public policy issue, not a race issue - and any confusion to the contrary only risks dividing our city and distracting Vancouver and our region from seeking the urgent action that is needed from the Provincial and Federal governments.”

      The statement was released shortly after the publication of a study by urban planner Andy Yan. His research includes new data that could be interpreted as pertaining to so-called “foreign buyers”.

      The study states that from August 2014 to February 2015, 66 percent of detached homes sold on Vancouver’s West Side went to buyers with “non-anglicized Chinese names”.

      Research by urban planner Andy Yan purports to quantify the role that people with a "non-anglicized Chinese name" play in Vancouver's real-estate market.
      Andy Yan

      Newspaper articles covering Yan’s findings are the latest in a wave of stories that have tried to quantify how money with foreign origins could be driving up home prices in Vancouver. Many reports focus exclusively on people from mainland China or who are suspected of living in China, often relying on an individual’s last name to suggest they do not live in Canada.

      Robertson’s statement does not include the word China but was almost certainly a reference to those sorts of reports.

      In addition to calling for restraint in debates about real-estate prices, the release lists a number of recommendations for action from other levels of governments.

      “There is nothing I hear more about from Vancouver residents than the urgent challenge of housing affordability,” the mayor is quoted as saying. “City Hall is continuing to use every available resource to get new affordable housing built, but I have been clear about a series of reasonable actions that are urgently needed from the Provincial and Federal governments.

      “A speculation tax would help slow down the practice of flipping houses, which too often leaves middle-income earners priced out of the market,” it continues.

      “A luxury housing tax would ensure that the very wealthiest buyers or investors pay an added price, which we could put towards building new affordable housing for those on low and modest incomes.

      “And yes, we do need far better federal and provincial tracking of data on international investment and absentee ownership.”

      On October 29, veteran Vancouver journalist Francis Bula published a blog post with a similar sentiment to that of Robertson’s statement. It was titled “Why you should be wary of stories saying ‘census proves rich Asians live in mansions and pay no taxes’”.

      And on October 9, another Vancouver journalist (and Straight contributor), Ng Weng Hoong, also wrote a blog post that raises questions about the veracity of newspaper articles that insinuate there is a foreign takeover of Lower Mainland real estate.

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