• Fri
  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 9:15pm
The Hongcouver
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 2:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 3:09pm

Born in China, Joy Mo blames rich mainlanders for Vancouver’s housing woes


Ian Young is the SCMP's former International Editor. A journalist for more than 20 years, he worked for Australian newspapers and the London Evening Standard before arriving in Hong Kong in 1997. There he won or shared awards for excellence in investigative reporting and human rights reporting, and the HK News Awards Scoop of the Year. He moved to Canada with his wife in 2010 and is now the SCMP's Vancouver correspondent.

Joy Mo, a Vancouver-area resident since 2002, says it is time to do something about the rich mainland Chinese she believes have priced locals like her out of the property market.

She cannot understand why Canadian politicians do not recognise a problem she says is plain to see. “I’m quite disappointed,” says the mother of two daughters, aged five and eight. “This is a place for all of us and if you drive all the local buyers out of the market, what is the community going to be?”

Mo, 42, was also born in mainland China, but tells me she does not want to be “painted with the same brush” as the extremely wealthy migrants she partly blames for her family’s housing situation. She and her Canadian husband have been renting in the satellite city of Port Moody since they sold their last home in 2008, unable to find a way back into the region’s sky-high market.

She says non-resident buyers should be hit with higher property taxes, both to compel a greater contribution to society and to reduce their participation in an overpriced market. Housing prices in Vancouver are the least affordable in North America, and the second least affordable in the world behind Hong Kong, according to a Demographia study of 337 metropolitan markets.

Mo, a court translator, says that while she wants a serious debate about the negative impact of foreign buyers in Vancouver, it is unfair to blame all Chinese migrants.

“Most immigrants who came here before 2008 or 2007 were mostly independent immigrants who came here with certain technical backgrounds. They tried to find a job, settle themselves here. But after that, all of a sudden, there are a whole bunch of investor-category immigrants,” Mo says. “Those are the ones that have a lot of money. They are generally not working and they don’t really care about finding a job because they have a business back in China.”

Mo is referring to the thousands of millionaire investor-class migrants who have been allowed to simply buy their way into Canada by handing over C$800,000 in cash to the provincial government (the loan is returned, without interest, after five years). More mainland Chinese enter Canada under the controversial scheme than all other nationalities combined. In the past eight years, 24,265 out of a total 36,892 investor migrants who settled in BC were mainland Chinese.

Mo says she became aware of the extent of the problem as she mingled with fellow alumni of Shanghai Maritime University who had recently moved to Vancouver. “I went to their new homes and we talked about purchasing houses. I was shocked that they didn’t have to pay anything extra as international buyers. And they thought that the prices of these houses were quite cheap,” she said, referring to homes ranging up to C$2.4 million.

“I just gasped. These numbers are just nothing to them and I don’t understand why they don’t pay income tax and only pay the same property tax as everybody else. I don’t think it’s right. Our politicians overlooked this or don’t think that it’s a big deal…There’s a loophole here.”

By contrast, Mo and her sports journalist husband have struggled to find a suitable home, despite a C$650,000 budget and above-average incomes. “In the past two months, we put in two offers. Both were outbid. One, of course, was a Chinese buyer,” she says.

Although Mo is certain that foreign buyers are pushing up prices, proving it is made difficult by Canada’s failure to collect data on foreign ownership. Nevertheless, a 2011 regional study of luxury-home purchasing records by Datacorp found that 74 per cent of buyers had mainland-Chinese style names with no English or Cantonese-specific variants. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson recently branded as “ridiculous” the notion that mainland buyers were pushing up property prices.

Mo, a Canadian citizen, says she struggles to restrain negative feelings to her rich mainland friends. “When I face them, I can’t say much,” she says. “But afterwards, I keep thinking, why do we allow them to do these things? Why not ask them to pay more property tax? It’s not a big deal for them.”

The Hongcouver blog is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by email ian.young@scmp.com or on Twitter, Ian Young @ianjamesyoung70


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This article is now closed to comments

Why isn't the Canadian Government doing background money laundering checks? Is the influx of money more important than the law?
A country also has the right and duty to impose restrictions as needed to protect its citizens.
“This is a place for all of us and if you drive all the local buyers out of the market, what is the community going to be?”
That's what we are thinking in Hong Kong........ The answer sadly is you end up with a housing market that is akin to a stock market, while poor people are shoved into public housing and those educated middle class emigrating to places with better living standards. Those who are stuck here and up living sub standard lives, with small families and in expensive shoe box apartments. The government wonders why there is a low birth rate when everything is duty free Hong Kong costs more then elsewhere due to high rents and housing rent is a disproportionate part of a family's spending.
No, she does not have herself to blame. I would imagine she immigrated to Canada so she would not have to put up with the dog-eat-dog hellhole that is Asia in general. I don't see why anyone would think a viciously competitive environment is anything to be proud about.

I suppose what you are saying is that having lived in Canada for a long time makes one uncompetitive. The better question is, why compete when there is no need? Why stress yourself to 150% for 70% of your life just so that you can relax the remaining 30%?

In Canada, life is relatively good from day one. Happiness and contentment begin from day one. The influx of people from competition based cultures, such as mainland Chinese, has disrupted this relatively peaceful equilibrium. Competition breeds competition and disrupts the natural peace and tranquility that was. Joy Mo rightly raises the issue of foreigners invading and disturbing the serenity of the local environment.
Ah, the savage irony.
She came over to take jobs from Canadians and price locals out of the market
and is incensed that others were better at it than her.
The real people to blame are in the government, who are TOTALLY happy that they're getting enormous interest free loans, fees, and with the housing prices so high, more money in taxes to spend on themselves.
Extremely disturbing attitude of the person interviewed in the article. If only she would stop and think for after all she's also an immigrant.
Its not only a Canadian problems with Rich mainlanders, New Zealand has the same problems, housing is critical ..pushing the locals out ..
"Joy Mo rightly raises the issue of foreigners invading and disturbing the serenity of the local environment."
The original native Canadians would have said the same thing about the European settlers moving in and decimating their population. Where do you draw the line? These waves of immigration happen. One just has to cope as best one can. I am sure that the Industrial Revolution brought a lot of personal suffering and loss, but is not something that any one can stop.
Canada has become an immigrant nation. But immigrants and investment speculators are too different things.
The same thing has happened in San Francisco, Sydney, Toronto, Los Angeles, London, you name it, where they gamble the property prices rocket.




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