• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 3:41pm
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.
Just make sure you immigrants can speak, write, and read ENGLISH and/or FRENCH!
Hong Kong people were accused previously of doing the same to the still older Canadians, resulting in Vancouver being referred to as Hongcouver.
it's a free market and the rich mainland chinese have a right to buy property at the price agreed.
Joy Mo is rightly coming out to defend the livelihoods of the local populace who have been harmed by the negative effects caused by foreign buyers of property. This is quite the noble cause and should be praised.

This is a great article and hits on the key issue of permitting and/or attracting immigration via property investment. Essentially a purchase of citizenship, any place where this has been implemented has necessarily experienced a corresponding increase in property prices, thus disturbing the natural price equilibrium that existed and, in many cases, pricing the market at a much higher level than is affordable by the local populace. Greatly elevated taxes to discourage foreign buyers is an excellent idea to preserve the equilibrium of the local property market, but this does not address the root problem. The root problem is the inflow of capital which would require prohibitions against foreign property ownership.

An even better approach is for investing immigrants to make an investment directly into a government managed pool of money. This pool of money would used for specific purposes, such as a) research grants or b) new business/entrepreneurship incentives. In this manner, the investment would generate sustainable, long-term economic contributions.
Need not be laundered money. There are lots of wealthy mainland Chinese. HKers moving into Vancouver also brought in straight money.
The Canadian government is greedy, and rich mainlanders are the perfect fit for them. It would easy and lawful to put more restrictions on foreign buyers (stamp duties worked to a degree here in HK).
Well if it is "not a big deal for them", then it will do nothing to stem the rise in property prices will it - clearly Jo Mo is not the sharpest tool in the box!
If you really must blame something, blame capitalism, not your compatriots.
As she is married to a canadian of course she does not want to be brushed with the same paint. She is now something better (even their motives were the same).
This is just capiitalism at it's finest. Wait and see were it will end.
She only has herself to blame..............living in Canada for a long time, kind of puts you behind the rest of the world.
This is partly true. For example, If one lives in California in the U.S. and then moves to the East coast, they will probably not be able to afford to come back late because prices rise faster there, even without Chinese home buyers. Property prices do better in some areas, but in Vancouver, it is really about foreign demand and it has been a running joke for a while now.
Has the SCMP checked how much of the housing woes can also be attributed to Hongkongers flocking into Vancouver? I am guessing Mainlanders outstripping HKers in immigration to Canada is a very recent phenomenon.
This previous story clarifies the shift in migration patterns
People didn't necessarily 'gamble' on the real estate market. They were just able to afford whatever figures the sellers asked. Melbourne property also rose with HK and mainland Chinese buyers. It is not as if the locals aren't happy to receive the high prices they get for something they bought long ago for a song.


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