If you want to be on Cloud 9, you only have until Sept. 30.
That is the last day for the revolving restaurant on the 42nd floor of the Empire Landmark Hotel, which is slated to come down for a new condo development.
Initially, the plan for the block-long site at 1400 Robson was for two towers, one 28 stories, the other 30. The design by Musson Cattel Mackey architects was for a mixed-use project with 223 market condos, 57 social housing units and two floors of offices and retail at ground level.
The towers will now be 31 and 32 storeys, and there will be 237 market condos, 63 social housing units, with retail and office on the bottom three floors. The height of the buildings will be 299.5 feet, which is about 25 per cent lower than the existing structure.
A development application goes to the city’s permit board on June 12 at 3 p.m.
The Empire Landmark hotel in 1975, when it was the Sheraton Landmark.DENI EAGLAND / PNG
The 357-room hotel at 1400 Robson was built in 1973 as a Sheraton, and has been the Empire Landmark since 1997. The tall, slender tower is in the middle of the site, while the new towers would be at either end.
The Empire Landmark is an example of the brutalist style of architecture popular in the early 1970s, with its exposed cement exterior. The buildings that would replace it will be light, airy glass towers.
The site is owned by 1488 Robson Holdings Ltd., whose directors have the same address as the Hong Kong-based Asia Standard Hotel Group.
Property records showed it sold in April, 2016 for $46.5 million. It has had Hong Kong-based owners since 1997.
The downtown peninsula is in the midst of a real estate frenzy, as developers try to snap up sites for new luxury towers. The old Chevron station at 1698 West Georgia, for example, recently sold for $72 million.
The redevelopments have come in the wake of the city’s new West End community plan, which raised the heights up to 550 feet in certain areas.
“It’s the new gold rush,” said heritage expert Don Luxton. “There’s increasing pressure on the West End, because Downtown South is very close to built out.”
Luxton lives in Anchor Point, a large complex at Burrard and Pacific that includes three residential towers and 477 units. Technically, it is outside the West End (which is across the street), but developers have been circling the site for a couple of years.
Several real estate brokers have made submissions to Anchor Point’s strata councils to represent them in negotiations with developers, including Eugen Klein of Royal Lepage.
“Two acres hasn’t gone to market in the downtown core in Vancouver in a very long time,” said Klein.
Klein said it is hard to say how much the site is worth because there are a lot of factors involved, such as whether the city would want social or rental housing in a redevelopment.
“I would be guessing, (but) today, $600 a buildable (square foot) is in the range of what’s going on,” he said.
A fourth building at Anchor Point is commercial, and sold for $47.5 million in 2011.
On Tuesday, Vancouver City Council approved a mass rezoning for 438 properties in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood in the Eastside area, with the vast majority of the affected properties being single-family residences.
The approval was expected as it puts in motion the new redevelopment opportunities established by the 2016-approved Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.
With City Council’s approval, property owners and developers can now seek the following redevelopment:
Four-storey apartments along East 12th Avenue between Clark Drive and Templeton Drive
Four-storey apartments and townhouses along East 1st Avenue between Commercial Drive and Nanaimo Street
Four-storey apartments, four-storey mixed-use buildings, and townhouses on select sites along Nanaimo Street between East 12th Avenue and East Pender Street
Grandview-Woodland rezonings, July 2018. (City of Vancouver)
Altogether, these zoning changes allow for the development of 3,000 new homes, accounting for a good portion of the new density required to achieve the Community Plan’s goal of increasing the population of Grandview-Woodland by 10,000 people over 30 years.
“This is an important piece for us to move forward with the redevelopment and accommodation of the [housing] demand that is out there,” said Vision Vancouver City Councillor Raymond Louie during yesterday’s public meeting.
“We are in a bit of a crisis, and I do believe we need to provide supply in our city and it needs to be done appropriately… I believe this will in fact help the neighbourhood over the longer term. Yes, there will be some people affected by the form, but I don’t think it will be as negative as people think.”
The greatest densities permitted by the Community Plan are generally along Hastings Street and Commercial Drive, particularly near SkyTrain’s Commercial-Broadway Station hub.
But compared to other transit-oriented developments elsewhere in the region, the allowable densities next to Metro Vancouver’s busiest transit hub can be considered extremely modest.
Brand new with GST included! Completely detached townhome! Laminated hardwood flooring throughout the main living areas. 3 bedrooms and two full bathrooms on the top floor with large, open concept living on the main. There is an amenity room, community garden plots, courtyards and play space. Steps to Killarney Community Centre & pool, top-rated schools, shopping, green space and parks. Directly, in front is a City greenbelt for pedestrians and bicycles. This is truly an inviting one-of-a-kind home. Own a piece of Vancouver history--Avalon Mews heritage 3-bedroom/2.5-bathroom townhouse with 2-5-10 warranty. Beautiful modern interiors with character and charm, quartz stone counters, white subway tile in open kitchen, high quality appliance package including gas range and gas fireplace. Gas heat-on-demand hot water.
The rankings were the result of extensive study of all of Greater Vancouver’s neighbourhoods, through which Zolo created a value score for each area based on a series of factors. These included: relative value of an average home compared with surrounding areas and the overall municipality; price appreciation over the past five years; potential for future growth; and the economic strength of the area combined with WalkScores and Transit scores.
Romana King, Zolo’s director of content, said on BTVancouver, “The West End is going to surprise people. It’s right downtown, it’s expensive… Yes, but when we're looking at value, we’re looking at relative value. It has the same access to parks, amenities, transit as Coal Harbour just across Georgia Street, [but is much less expensive].”
At the other end of the scale, Fraserview in East Vancouver was named the “worst” area in the city to buy either a condo or a townhome in 2018.
King wrote in the report, “Value isn’t synonymous with cheap, especially in real estate. Cheaper housing prices can occur for a variety of reasons — not all of them good. Instead, we wanted to find neighbourhoods that haven’t appreciated as much as surrounding communities but have access to the same amenities and social values as these higher-priced neighbouring ’hoods. In essence, we are looking for affordable, good neighbourhoods that are poised to increase in value.”
The West End was named the hottest area in the city, but it wasn't Greater Vancouver's overall winner, ranking second out of the entire region in both condos and townhomes. East Coquitlam was named the region's top area to buy a condo, and Mary Hill in Port Coqutilam was placed highest for townhouses. (Full Greater Vancouver rankings here.)
Check out the infographic below for Zolo’s top 10 areas in Vancouver to buy either a condo or a townhome, and below that, Zolo’s 10 “worst” Vancouver areas to buy a condo or townhome. Do you agree with the results?
To make a smart property decision you need to buy in a neighbourhood that’s both desirable and still has room to grow. Our ranking of the best neighbourhoods to buy a condo in the Greater Vancouver Area should help you narrow down that search
Greater Vancouver’s real estate market is a good news / bad news story that can leave even the most experienced home buyer or seller a little dazed and confused. Benchmark prices are up, by 11.5%, for all property types but inventory levels are also rising. Sounds like a recipe for a price correction, right? Except overall supply is still well below long-term historical averages, according to Phil Moore, President of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV). This could explain why prices keep climbing in Greater Vancouver. For instance, in 2018, the condo market prices climbed 19.3%. Strong start, yes, but it’s still lower than the 10-year May average. Up. Down. Up. Down.
It’s not surprising buyers and sellers are all feeling a little fatigued. It doesn’t help that the new mortgage stress test — that came into effect on January 1, 2018, and now requires all purchasers to qualify for a loan at the posted five-year rate — and rising mortgage rates are both helping to seriously erode buying purchasing power.
Rather than give up on the homeownership dream, many buyers are switching focus to condos and townhomes. Evidence of this shift came early. Reports from REBGV show that activity for townhome and condo sales at the start of 2018, were above the 10-year January average sitting at 14.3% and 31.6%, respectively. At the same time, there was a 24.8% drop in sales for detached homes.
To be clear, these numbers are for resales of existing condos, not pre-sales of units that haven’t yet been built (which are historically more costly per square foot).
All this can be daunting for anyone looking to buy a condo in the Lower Mainland — but we can help. By examining the value, price momentum and the economic viability of almost 400 neighbourhoods, we came up with a ranking of the best neighbourhoods in the Greater Vancouver Area to buy a condo. The communities that rose to the top offer good value, solid economic fundamentals and a strong opportunity for future appreciation.
We didn’t stop there. We realize that not everyone wants to or can afford to buy a condo in Vancouver’s urban core. As a result, we broke out our best neighbourhoods to buy list to include the top communities to buy in surrounding cities. You’ll find the best condo communities in Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, the Tri-Cities, Langley and even Abbotsford. Our aim is to give you a starting point — a ranking to help you short-list the best possible neighbourhoods where you can begin your home-hunt.
The hot Vancouver real-estate market in recent years has created a unique situation for separating couples who own property during the relationship and must now divide their property. People are often surprised when they seek legal advice and learn how their property—specifically, real property that has increased significantly in value during and after the relationship—is divided according to family law in British Columbia.
To understand the unique situation created by the hot real-estate market, you will first need to understand which property constitutes “family property”—which is property that will be divided equally between the spouses (note that there are some exceptions to equal division, depending on the circumstances)—and how family property is valued according to B.C.’s Family Law Act.
Family property includes property that you or your spouse owned on the date you separate, regardless of whose name the property is registered in. This is often one fact that surprises people, as many people assume that their ex can only receive a share of the property if their name is on the title.
Some properties are not considered family property and are called “excluded property”. Excluded property includes property that one spouse owned before the relationship started—however, the increase in value of the excluded property during the relationship is family property and will be subject to division.
So, for example, if one party owned property prior to the relationship and the property was valued at $100,000 at the beginning of the relationship, the $100,000 is excluded property. However, if the property increased in value during the relationship to, say, $200,000, the $100,000 increase in value will be divided equally between the parties.
How family property is valued is also particularly surprising to many people, because it is often assumed that the value of the property to be divided between the parties is based on the value of the property on the date they separate. However, the law mandates that the value of each party’s interest in the property is determined at the date of trial or the date that the two parties reach a settlement.
The problem is that it could take months or years for parties to settle or to wait for a trial date. In most separations, one party moves out and the other party lives in the property and pays all of the expenses related to the home, such as the mortgage, property taxes, utilities, etcetera. The party remaining in the home often assumes that if the property increases in value, they should be the one to enjoy the increase since they alone made all the financial contributions to the property post-separation.
However, this is not how the law works. In addition to any increase in value during the relationship, the party who moved out of the home is also entitled to half of the increase of value of the property between the time the parties separate and whenever the parties settle their case or go to trial.
There are many situations in recent years where a family-law case does not settle or does not proceed to trial for three or more years and meanwhile the property value has increased by more than $500,000. This means that if one party wants to keep the property and buy out the other party’s interest in the property, the buyout payment would have been far lower if they had reached settlement sooner.
Here are some tips for individuals who are facing the type of situation described above:
Work with the other party to settle how your property and debt will be divided as soon as possible. Do not assume that the other party will not start court proceedings simply because they have cut off communications with you or did not express any initial interest in pursuing property registered in your name. Parties have two years to start court proceedings. As a family lawyer, I have come across many clients who assumed they would not hear from their exes again after their ex moved out, only to be served with court papers making a claim against their property just a month prior to the two-year limitation date.
Make sure you seek legal advice and have the settlement terms detailed in a separation agreement or court order. Similar to the point above, many people assume that a verbal agreement to not pursue property division is sufficient, only to be surprised many months later when their ex starts court proceedings respecting their property.
If you are paying expenses related to the property, keep a record, along with documents such as bank statements and receipts, of all expenses you paid for after you separated, such as mortgage payments, renovation and repair costs, property taxes, etc.
If the property is registered solely in your ex’s name and you have not reached an agreement regarding property division with your ex, you can protect your interest in the family home by either starting a court action to register a certificate of pending litigation against the title of the property or by registering a Land (Spouse Protection) Act charge on the property. What this does is prevent your ex from remortgaging the property or selling the property without notifying you.
Property- and debt-division issues can be complicated and there may be much to gain or lose. It is highly recommended that you seek legal advice—even if you do not intend on hiring a lawyer to represent you long-term—to get a clear understanding of your rights and have a clear strategy for protecting your property interests.
Nancy Chen practises family law at Catalyst Legal LLP.
VANCOUVER — In one of Canada’s most expensive neighbourhoods, in hilly West Vancouver, sits a row of seemingly abandoned mansions.
Not a single person can be found on the upper north side of Highview Place on a weekday midafternoon.
Goldfish swim in an overgrown pond in the front yard of one of the Highview homes. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)
Stonemason Breton Crellin helps build mansions in West Vancouver, where he can’t afford to live. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)
Weeds, some six feet tall, overtake apparently unoccupied mansions along West Vancouver's Highview Place. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)
Stonemason Breton Crellin says it’s demoralizing to see houses he worked on sitting empty. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)
A neighbour says she has never seen anyone occupy these homes in West Vancouver. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)
Goldfish swim in an overgrown pond in the front yard of one of the Highview homes. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)
Stonemason Breton Crellin helps build mansions in West Vancouver, where he can’t afford to live. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)
The homes were developed by British Pacific Properties, starting in 2013. The company builds “exceptional master-planned communities,” according to its website. The houses are valued at between six and eight million dollars.
The only sign of life is a robin flitting in six-foot-tall weeds.
In the front yard of one house, a handful of goldfish swim in a pond lined with spiderwebs.
In another, blinds, still in boxes, sit in an unfurnished room waiting to be installed on the bare windows.
In front of yet another, dead leaves have settled on a bulky parcel resting against the front door.
The Star knocked on the doors of the seven houses, but didn’t find anyone at home. Land titles for the homes list mailing addresses in Vancouver, West Vancouver and Richmond, B.C., while others list addresses in China.
A visit to two of the Vancouver mailing addresses on a Friday afternoon — a house on Vancouver’s west side and a Coal Harbour condo — failed to find the owners of the West Vancouver properties.
The Star also sought comment from the developer, British Pacific Properties. Renu Bakshi, a spokesperson for the company, said the president, Geoff Croll, could not be reached by deadline.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census, West Vancouver has the highest rate of unoccupied homes of all the municipalities that make up Metro Vancouver, at 9.2 per cent. Vancouver has the next highest rate, at 8.2 per cent.
Single-detached house prices in West Vancouver rose 37 per cent between 2015 and 2016, as a wave of real-estate speculation swept the region, and the affluent suburb became known as a hot spot for luxury homes.
Mary-Ann Booth, a West Vancouver city councillor and mayoralty candidate, said she began hearing concerns about empty homes about three years ago, at a time when property prices began to rise dramatically. Booth believes many of the houses are being used as investments rather than homes to live in full-time.
Prices are now declining following provincial measures to tax foreign ownership and speculation, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, but houses in West Vancouver still cost an average of $3 million, and the municipality is now facing a decreasing population, according to StatsCan. There are few affordable housing choices in the municipality, Booth says.
On a practical level, the district has also been left with a glut of empty homes. When something goes wrong, finding the owner can be difficult.
And to some, the houses represent an incredible waste in a region where many are struggling to find a place to live.
Not far away from the row of empty homes on Highview Place, stonemason Breton Crellin has been helping build similar mansions he believes have contributed to him and others locals getting priced out of Vancouver, his hometown. Crellin now lives in Pitt Meadows, a 45-minute drive away.
“This is my industry that has built part of these homes,” Crellin said.
“My trade has become little more than a way for people to increase the value of their investment,” said the 31-year-old, who helps install stone around fireplaces and builds rock retaining walls and stone pillars.
Crellin said it’s heartbreaking to see the “level of neglect and abandonment” of the homes like the ones he has helped build recently in West Vancouver and Richmond. To the former landscaper, the dead and dying plants “look like money wasted on the ground.”
A few doors south, a neighbour, who was not comfortable giving her name, said that in the three years she’s lived on her street, there’s never been anyone living in the row of empty Highview mansions.
A week ago she said her husband approached the properties and took photos. He plans to take them to the city of West Vancouver to complain.
“It’s very unsightly. There are six-foot weeds in front of the property,” she said. “It takes away from the vibrancy of the neighbourhood.”
Booth has also encountered empty homes in her neighbourhood of Ambleside. She recently encountered a vacant home with water pouring out of a flooded basement.
“You could see the water was seeping out and clearly something was going on in the basement of that house,” she said, but she wasn’t sure who to report the damage to.
Another house on her street was bought by a developer, but remains empty.
It’s providing a home to someone, though: “I heard (from neighbours) the back door was open and raccoons were going in there,” Booth said.
West Vancouver has a good neighbour bylaw that allows for residents to complain about unkempt yards and badly maintained homes. If the problem is bad enough, city staff can do repairs and add the cost to the homeowner’s property taxes.
In February, West Vancouver councillors passed a motion to ask the province for the power to try a different policy: the ability to charge different property tax rates if houses are vacant or are not being used as principal residences.
The province has not yet agreed to allow the tax changes.
Jenny Peng is a Vancouver-based reporter covering business. Follow her on Twitter: @JennyPengNow
Jen St. Denis is a Vancouver-based reporter covering affordability and city hall. Follow her on Twitter: @jenstden
Commercial real estate sales drop off in much of Metro Vancouver
It's not just residential real-estate agents who are feeling the pinch of slower sales in Vancouver these days.
The commercial market also also seen a significant drop in transactions, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
In the first three months of 2018, there was a 10.8 percent fall in its territory, which includes Squamish, Whistler, and most of the Lower Mainland, but not Surrey, Langley, White Rock, and North Delta.
The dollar volume fell 38.5 percent in the first quarter from $4.93 billion last year to $3.03 billion this year.
“Our commercial market returned to more historically normal levels in the first quarter of the year compared to the heightened activity we experienced in 2017,” REBGV president Phil Moore said in a news release. “This shift to more typical activity is mirroring the overall economic trends we’re seeing in our province today.
The dollar volume of land sales in the first quarter dipped 20.5 percent, whereas the dollar volume of office and retail sales crashed by 51 percent.
Dollar volume of industrial sales was off 12.2 percent.
Multifamily sales saw an 81.5 percent decrease in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.
This comes not long after the REBGV released its May statistics for residential real estate sales. They indicated that home sales fell by 35.1 percent over the same period in 2017.
Meanwhile, B.C.'s NDP government is forecasting growing revenues from real-estate transactions.
Its recent budget predicted $2.22 billion in property-transfer taxes this fiscal year, rising to $2.25 billion in in 2019-20 and to $2.31 billion in 2020-21.
How Chinese gangs are laundering drug money through Vancouver real estate
A Global News investigation shows Vancouver is a major hub for money laundering and the trade and transfer of narcotics, counterfeit goods and illegal exports. And some of the proceeds are ending up right here in Alberta. Jennifer Crosby speaks to reporter Sam Cooper about the investigation.
East Hastings west of Clark Drive poised for major transformation
The City of Vancouver is preparing urban design guidelines to guide development along East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside.
A Downtown Eastside local area plan was approved several years ago, determining building heights along major corridors in the neighbourhood.
The guidelines for urban design will influence how new buildings along East Hastings and in the Kiwassa neighbourhood — west of the rail tracks — will look.
Guidelines will address building shape, architectural features, heritage compatibility and the development of triangular flatiron sites, such as the parcel at East Hastings and Vernon Drive.
Map showing the Hastings Centre, Hastings East and Kiwassa areas, which will all be impacted by the plan. Credit: City of Vancouver
The most significant change to the area will be the development of a new mixed-use neighbourhood west of East Hastings Street and Clark Drive.
The area will include new residential uses, social housing, and locally-serving retail and services.
Building heights will increase from west to east along Hastings, with the tallest structures of up to 150′ (15 storeys) around Vernon Drive and East Hastings.
Rendering of potential development along East Hastings Street, from Hawks to Clark Drive. Credit: City of VancouverEast Hastings Street and Hawks Avenue, looking east. Credit: City of VancouverEast Hastings and Main, looking west towards downtown Vancouver. Note the infill on Main Street. Credit: City of Vancouver
Any rezonings will need to include 20 to 30 per cent social housing, and will need to reinforce the heritage character with narrow building frontages, varying heights and appropriate materials.
The city wants the architecture to be “contemporary, yet well-blended with the heritage character.” Mimicking of heritage styles, as well as façade-only retention, will be discouraged.
The city is proposing materials and building characteristics that complement the neighbourhood’s industrial character. Credit: City of Vancouver
Improvements to streets and sidewalks are also proposed, including:
new public art, parklets and plazas
new public open space at the triangular flatiron sites at East Hastings and Vernon Dr.
an observation deck and rest areas on the Hastings Viaduct over the railroad, with views to the mountains
more opportunities for patios and benches along Hastings Street
more street trees, including a double-row if possible
wider sidewalks, particularly at transit stops
Several developers have already purchased property in the area, including Onni (Brave Bull/Yolks site at Hastings and Clark); Solterra (Waldorf Hotel); and Wall Financial (Strathcona Village 280-unit condominium development, nearly complete and sold out).
Chip Wilson’s family’s company, Low Tide Properties, also owns several buildings in the 800-block East Hastings.
The company purchased 10 lots between 828-868 East Hastings for $7.25 million in 2012, and spent $10.7 million on properties between 855-895 East Hastings in 2013. One of the buildings purchased is currently home to Strathcona Beer Company.
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Canada housing non-profit courts Ottawa with affordability plan – as founder Westbank woos millionaires in China with gifts and soaring prices
The Creative Housing Society warns of unaffordability, income inequality and economic segregation in Vancouver. But the developer behind the group uses rising prices in the city as a promotional tool in China to target wealthy people in search of ‘globally optimised asset allocation’
PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 5:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 9:56am
Is it possible to fight housing affordability in Vancouver, while at the same time touting the city’s price gains as a selling point to millionaires in China seeking “globally optimised asset allocation”?
That’s the question inadvertently posed by local developer Westbank’s Chinese website, as it promotes mainland sales events for its projects. Among other things, the Vancouver High-End Real Estate Seminars specifically target applicants to Canada’s millionaire immigrant investor programme with offers of free gifts.
Potential attendees of the seminars in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen this Saturday are alerted to things that routinely top the lists of things that make Vancouver awesome: good schools, clean air, and spectacular scenery.
But the Chinese-language site also unabashedly shakes the moneymakers that have given Vancouver good claim to the title of Strangest Real Estate Market in the Western World.
The site was the subject of an online furore recently when it was highlighted by local housing activist Rohana Rezel.
It describes potential attendees as immigrants and would-be immigrants to Canada including “high-net-worth persons” seeking “globally optimised asset allocation”. It notes that “over 35 per cent of billionaires have already bought property in Canada”.
“Families with the ‘Maple Leaf’ [slang for Canadian permanent residency cards] or a Canadian investment immigration application receive a gift,” it says.
As for the rising prices that have propelled Vancouver near the top of world unaffordability charts, they are plainly depicted as attractants.
“House prices in Vancouver rose by 25.9 per cent in 2017,” the site claims, alongside a colourful graph of rising prices in Greater Vancouver, and an assessment that the city is “the gathering place of the world’s richest people, rated as one of the most liveable cities in the world by TheEconomist.”
The ‘economic segregation’ of Vancouver
This sort of sales pitch may stick in the craw of a locally-earning homebuyer in Metro Vancouver, where the median household income, a modest C$72,662, is dwarfed by costs of ownership. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says the composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver stands at C$1,094,000.
However, unless you have been living under a rock, it is not a terribly surprising tactic for a seller of high-end real estate in Vancouver. Westbank says its clientele in Asia is “primarily Canadian” and is purchasing because of existing ties to Canada, “or future plans to call Canada home”.
(It should be noted that the site also tells customers “Canada is open to Chinese for 10 years without an interview visa”, an apparent reference to the 10-year multi-entry visitor visa scheme, as an alternative to formal immigration)
Yet at the same time as making explicit pitches to the rich in China – clearly premised in part on Vancouver housing as a commodity in a rising market – Westbank is also the founder of a new organisation that wants to take a massive role in the city’s battle against unaffordability, and is warning against the perils of income inequality.
In its mission statement, the Creative Housing Society says that “in Vancouver and Toronto, both now considered global cities, there is a significant disconnect between local incomes and the cost of housing. Income inequality has been increasing and is manifesting itself more and more through economic segregation.”
We will welcome newcomers to Vancouver to purchase provided they intend to live, work and contribute to the community
The CHS is proposing to the federal government an ambitious scheme to build 50,000 units of affordable housing, mostly in Vancouver and Toronto. The scheme, which could be worth up to C$14 billion, would involve public and private partnerships to build “affordable rental housing”, possibly on publicly owned land. Its broad outlines are under consideration by the Trudeau government; Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, the parliamentary secretary for housing and urban affairs, told the Globe and Mail in March that the government was seeking more information on the proposal.
In a statement to the SCMP about the compatibility of Westbank pitching to millionaires in China, while the CHS pitched affordability solutions to the government, Westbank said its support of the CHS was “a natural extension of the firm’s long-standing, broad-ranging work, and stepping up to address the need for housing in Canada”.
“However Creative Housing is not Westbank. Creative Housing is a separate, not-for-profit organisation under the direction of one of the country’s most respected advocates seeking to work with all levels of government and other advocates and businesses to create affordable, rental housing for Canadians.” (That’s a reference to CHS’s Jennifer Keesmaat, the former chief planner of Toronto)
As for the direct appeals and fee gifts being offered to millionaire immigrant investor applicants*, “Westbank has made the point that this event is to attract people with residency status and families who want to live in Vancouver.”
In a follow-up statement, the developer said: “We will welcome newcomers to Vancouver to purchase provided they intend to live, work and contribute to the community. Nearly all of the purchasers in our recent projects have purchased intending to live in the project and that is our target market.”
Vancouver’s foreign buyer tax had “nearly eliminated” demand from international investors who had no intentions to live or work in Canada, it said. “We are not pitching global asset allocation and it is inaccurate to suggest that.”
A signature moment in the transformation of Vancouver
Westbank founder and president Ian Gillespie has been frank in the past about the importance of China to his Vancouver projects, which include some of the city’s most dramatic residential towers – witness the sculpted curves of Vancouver House, rising at the downtown end of the Granville Bridge.
Vancouver House is among the projects being marketed at Westbank’s China seminars this weekend, which offer “10 per cent deposit, unlimited buying and unlimited stock”.
In a 2014 interview with the SCMP about the Bjarke Ingels-designed project, Gillespie framed Vancouver as a city attracting “the best and the brightest” of the world’s intellectual capital.
He was nonplussed by the then-recent cancellation of Canada’s federal immigrant investor programme*, and expected it to be replaced anyway.
“The way to think of it is water is running down the hill. You put a boulder in the middle of the creek and the water heads around it. It always finds a way. People find a way … it has always been that way. It’s like they are trying to plug a hose with a little pebble.”
He took the view that Vancouver House represented a piece of “city building” that “will forever mark a milestone in the history of the city, in the same way that Stanley Park does, or Granville Island does”.
“If you look back, 40 or 50 years from now, in Vancouver and you say, ‘look at the transformation of Vancouver, what are the real signature moments’, and this will be one of them. There is absolutely zero doubt about it.”
He may turn out to be right.
*While the federal immigrant investor programme was shut down in 2014, the Quebec IIP continues to operate and is scheduled to bring 1,900 households, representing about 6,000 individuals, to Canada per year. Seventy per cent are expected to be Chinese, and their minimum wealth must be C$2million under recently changed rules for the next intake. They will be granted permanent residency in exchange for loaning C$1.2 million to the Quebec government interest-free for five years
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 email@example.com or on Twitter, @ianjamesyoung70.
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New rules prohibiting real estate agents from working with both the buyer and seller of a property come into effect on Friday, and even though there have been some revisions, there is still worry from some in the industry that they will lead to frustration and confusion.
“So many people do not understand what’s happening. There have been lots of emails, but it’s not clear what’s expected. We have been discussing potential scenarios, but it’s very difficult to know what (will be considered) right,” says Mark Wiens, a realtor at Sutton West Coast Realty.
The new rules were first announced in November 2017 by the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate following cases of misconduct in Metro Vancouver and concerns that, in a red-hot market, consumer interests were being exploited for realtor gains.
Implementation was scheduled for March 2018, but a three-month extension was granted because the real estate industry called for more time to discuss changes and arguments that blanketing the province with the same rules didn’t take into consideration the situation in smaller, more remote markets.
On Thursday, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver called on the minister of finance and the office of the superintendent of real estate to extend the timeline further.
“The rules changes are significant and penalties for non-compliance are substantial, yet the implications and means of implementation of the new rules are still not well understood in the industry,” said Weaver. “Real estate professionals across B.C. are bringing forward stories about inaccurate and conflicting information, and inadequate training regarding these new rules.”
Wiens is actually in favour of the new rules. “Banning dual agency makes sense in Vancouver. … It’s very hard to separate the interests of one client from another. Technically, it can be done, but, in (such a) situation, I wouldn’t trust myself.”
That said, he, like others, isn’t sure about the practical aspects of putting a ban in place since it will rely on parties ticking off boxes and signing disclosure forms.
“People might not realize they aren’t as protected. Before you have to get a signing-off form from the seller, you could say, ‘Let me tell you everything I know about this property or buyer,’ and then (just) sign the form afterwards,” declaring compliance.
He says it’s not clear yet how different actions and interpretations in a time-sensitive deal might get assessed.
There are currently fewer multiple offers in a market that has slowed considerably, but there are some deals that will present challenges, says Wiens. “Good luck sorting it out. Trying to keep information about three different people and keeping straight that it’s about what can you disclose and what you cannot.”
“The rules are so loosey-goosey. There are no strong definitions,” says Michael La Prairie, president of the Real Estate Brokers Association of B.C., citing other examples where agents will have to make judgement calls.
“There was an extension period, but we haven’t been at the table. We asked for a delay to get clarification, (but) some scenarios are still vague.”
Forbidding “double recusal” or listing agents from selling a home to a potential buyer with whom they have had dealings in the past, so to protect confidential information, didn’t feel practical in some smaller markets.
“Even in Kamloops, which is about 100,000 people, it’s still a small town,” says Kirsten Mason, an agent at Century 21 Desert Hills. “You know people are getting a divorce before they are getting a divorce. You are always meeting people and hearing personal information that might essentially compromise your ability to work on their behalf.”
Exemptions were introduced to take into account that some markets have very few agents, but they “are a unicorn,” says Mason, in that they can’t really exist. “Nobody has seen one. There are three ways to be exempt: You are rural, or in an under-serviced market, or it would be impossible to have another agent help you. But you could always hire an agent from another place to help you. But, if you did that, would you be (in compliance or) doing the right thing?”
The Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate was not available for questions on Wednesday.
Houses line the street of Dunbar neighbourhood in Vancouver, BC on May 29, 2018. (Photograph by Jimmy Jeong)
Across the street from a run-of-the-mill Starbucks in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver is a two-storey Ferrari and Maserati dealership. Locals will tell you with amazement that it is the highest-volume location in North America. Whether or not that’s true, the ﬁve homeowners gathered today around a table at the Starbucks want to make clear that Ferraris are not for people like them. Though their homes on the west side of the city may be worth millions of dollars, they do not consider themselves rich. “It’s really hurtful when someone says, ‘You live in a $2-million property, so that means you’re a wealthy person,’ ” says Mary Lavin, an English teacher. “Um, no. Not at all.” Lavin points to her car in the lot, a 1998 Toyota Tercel. “I’ve had one holiday in my life.”
Premica Baines, a retired federal government worker, notes she walked here from her home in Point Grey, which is assessed at around $4.5 million. She even brought her own coffee. “The majority of the people who are not living in the neighbourhood think we have lots of money in our accounts,” Baines says. “It’s not true.”
They do, however, have lots of equity in their homes, which the provincial NDP government has moved to tax at a higher rate. The government announced a change to what’s called the school tax, a levy derived from property values that helps fund the education system. Starting next year, some residents will pay an additional 0.2 per cent on the amount by which their property values exceed $3 million, and 0.4 per cent on the portion above $4 million. (For a $3.5-million home, that’s an increase of $1,000 per year.)
The change has deeply angered the west side of Vancouver, where large detached homes perch on leafy, green lots. Residents have launched petitions, staged protests and erected yard signs claiming the tax is “hurting seniors and working-class families the most!!!!” Home values have skyrocketed in the area, but incomes have not. Those who purchased property many years ago don’t necessarily have extra cash on hand.
Around the table, there are multiple objections to the tax. Mainly, the group feels targeted because of their home values. “We don’t think it’s fair that it’s only applied to certain individuals and not others,” Lavin says. “That appears discriminatory.” Lavin bought a duplex in Kitsilano two decades ago for $500,000, and it’s now assessed at just over $2 million. The tax does not apply to her. “My concern is that it can be arbitrarily lowered to a $2-million property, which would impact me.” Recently, a UBC professor called for increasing property taxes on homes worth more than $1 million. “Personally, I’m fearful,” says Lavin.
The effect of the government’s ﬁxation on housing wealth, they say, is to sow harmful social discord. “When you single out a part of the community, and fuel that discrimination by talking about the haves and the have-nots, it’s not only bad policy, it’s bad for our community,” says Jeff Petter, who works for a medical technology company. “We ﬁnd that is morally repugnant.” (He doesn’t want to say how much his property is worth, but allows it’s “absolutely absurd.”) Baines nods in agreement. “I had dinner with some friends last night, and the person who is renting was attacking the people that were there,” she says. The renter was telling the homeowners to just sell their homes and enjoy the windfall if they were so worried about taxes. “What kind of response is that?” she says.
While the issue of housing has long strained the city’s social fabric, it’s now creating discernible tears. Owning a home here costs 85.2 per cent of a typical household’s income, the worst level ever recorded in Canada, according to RBC. Even a condo eats up half a household’s earnings. Everyone seems to feel like a victim: homeowners fretting about taxes, locals priced out and forced to move to suburbs, and those struggling to ﬁnd anywhere to live in a place where the vacancy rate is less than one per cent. There is ﬁerce disagreement over the cause of the crisis—insatiable demand or a lack of supply—and, as a result, no consensus on solutions.
As part of an effort to tackle affordability, the NDP government has opted for taxation to reduce demand. In addition to the extra school levy, the province increased and expanded the foreign buyer tax and put in place a so-called “speculation tax,” which applies to vacant homes in select regions. Finally, the province boosted the property transfer tax on high-end homes, and expanded disclosure requirements to end hidden ownership. “We ﬁnally have a government that’s serious about housing affordability and is willing to see prices fall,” says Joshua Gordon, an assistant professor in the school of public policy at Simon Fraser University. “That’s not to be underestimated as a force.”
Polls show the NDP’s affordability measures have broad support, but not everywhere. For the ﬁrst time in years, those who have ostensibly beneﬁted from Vancouver’s real estate boom—homeowners, investors, flippers and the entire industry—feel threatened. “The NDP is creating class warfare, and using real estate to drive the wedge,” fumes real estate agent Keith Roy. Someone, he notes, recently defaced lawn signs on the west side protesting the school tax, scrawling “EAT THE RICH” on them. “Homeownership is being punished,” he says. “Success is being viliﬁed.”
On a recent weekday morning, David Williams is giving a walking tour of his block in Dunbar, on the west side of Vancouver. At 64, Williams is retired from a career in ﬁnance, and he walks briskly through the quiet streets describing who bought which house when. His tour is really about how wealth—or hot money, he believes, referring to foreign capital—is transforming his neighbourhood. “The guy across the lane from us, he tore down an old house, built a whopping new house, and he had a Rolls-Royce and a Ferrari in the garage,” he says.
David Williams describes the changing neighbourhood of Dunbar In Vancouver, BC on May 29, 2018. (Photograph by Jimmy Jeong)
The trend for years has been to purchase a home, knock it down and build an even bigger one. The clash of styles—squat, old bungalows next to towering three-storey mansions—bothers him. “Here’s a brand spanking new house, built on spec. I think they listed it for eight,” he says, meaning $8 million. “It’s a f–king ugly house.” It’s rare to walk a block without passing a dumpster ﬁlled with refuse from a home construction project. And then there are the four empty homes on his street. He stops in front of one. “They can’t even pay for a gardening service,” he says, pointing to the long, weedy grass.
Williams and his wife purchased a home in Dunbar almost 30 years ago, when it was more of a working-class area. Today, their property is worth $4.4 million, but the neighbourhood feels as though it’s emptying out. “There are fewer families, let’s call it that way,” he says. Halloween once brought upwards of 150 kids to his door. Now he gets maybe 50. A neighbour of his used to collect $25 from every household to purchase ﬁreworks and put on a show once a year. Three years ago, the neighbour returned Williams’s money. Only a few households chipped in, and there hasn’t been a ﬁreworks show since.
If Williams ever sold his home, he has no doubt the buyer would knock it down. But who could even afford it? “Well, not a Canadian,” he says. “The next buyer of any of these houses here is not somebody who earns their income in this province.” Williams says he would gladly accept a 50 per cent reduction in property values if it meant that younger residents, including his own children, could buy into the neighbourhood. But he knows that will never happen. He’s read the news stories about wealthy offshore buyers, and students and homemakers who somehow own multi-million-dollar properties. “For guys like me who pay their taxes year after year, it just pisses you off,” he says. “The government doesn’t appreciate why people are pissed off.”
His fear, shared by many in Vancouver, is that the city will become a playground for a rootless class of nouveaux riches. The perception is that this trend is well under way. A few years ago, a television producer launched Ultra Rich Asian Girls, a reality series following the extravagant lives of four young women in Vancouver. (It lasted only two seasons.) Exotic vehicles are not an uncommon sight on city streets, and last year the province’s public insurer jacked up premiums on high-end vehicles since repair costs are becoming a concern. The Insurance Corp. of B.C. recently spent more than $790,000 on damage claims for a Ferrari that crashed into a utility pole. And when a nine-year-old rapper and Instagram personality named Lil Tay went viral recently, she seemed to embody the worst excesses of the Vancouver housing market. In her videos, she crudely belittles viewers for not being as rich as her, poses with Lamborghinis and in high-end condos, all while flashing stacks of cash. Her mom, as it turned out, worked as a Vancouver real estate agent.
The province’s tax measures are designed to address the very issues that so aggrieve long-time residents. By making it more expensive to own homes in Vancouver, especially for offshore buyers or those simply wanting to park money, demand will ebb and affordability will improve. Or so the government hopes. Homeowners like Williams are skeptical. Many believe deep-pocketed foreign buyers won’t be dissuaded by additional taxes. They also argue the tax measures don’t exclusively target offshore wealth, but sweep up those with local incomes, too.
Gordon at SFU argues the speculation tax in particular will bite, however. “It’s difﬁcult to dodge, and it’s not a one-time tax.” Owners of homes left vacant for at least six months of the year in Metro Vancouver and a few other jurisdictions are subject to the tax. Foreign owners and so-called satellite families (households that have high foreign incomes but little local earnings) pay two per cent on the value of their properties, while others pay one per cent. Some may opt to sell or rent out their properties. The province has not said how it will deﬁne a satellite family, nor how many households are actually in this situation. But studies have found tens of thousands of wealthy immigrants have arrived in B.C. through programs that offer permanent residency in return for investment. A 2014 federal report of a defunct program found business immigrants declare “considerably lower” personal incomes than those who arrive through some other programs.
Houses line the street of Dunbar neighbourhood in Vancouver, BC on May 29, 2018. (Photograph by Jimmy Jeong)
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says satellite families are unfairly maligned. “If they are Canadian citizens, on what basis are you going to say this is an invalid way of life?” he says. “Suppositions are made based on the ethnic appearances of people, that somehow they are this class who are predatory speculators,” he says. (Asked about what responsibility his party, in power for 16 years, bears for the affordability crisis, he demurs. “To look into the past and look for scapegoats serves no purpose,” he says.)
Supporters of the NDP’s new measures contend they are part of a necessary shift in the province’s approach to taxation. “We had a tax system that told the world to come buy real estate here, but don’t work for a living,” says Tom Davidoff, a professor at UBC. Property taxes are relatively low compared to other cities, creating an incentive to buy real estate, but not earn or accurately declare local wages, avoiding the brunt of income taxes. Davidoff says the NDP’s tax measures ﬁnally start to address this problem, though it’s necessary to tilt the scales even more aggressively by cutting income and sales taxes, and raising property taxes further. Politically, that would be difﬁcult since it places a bigger burden on seniors who have accumulated a lot of housing wealth.
Already, the reaction to the school tax shows what awaits politicians who wish to tackle that issue—even when steps are taken to forestall blowback. Those over 55 years old can defer payment of the school tax until a property is sold, for example. Given the rapid price appreciation in Vancouver, the amount of tax due is likely to be a very small portion of the sale price. But to opponents, deferring is like taking on government-mandated debt. “I don’t want to be borrowing,” says Sepideh Ziabakhsh, who owns a $4-million property. “I mean, I have,” she clariﬁes. Ziabakhsh and her husband have a mortgage on their west-side home, which they bought 12 years ago. They also recently drew down from a line of credit to fund a much-needed kitchen renovation. “I’m an optometrist and he’s a lawyer. You would think we have it made, but we don’t,” she says. Ziabakhsh and her husband are not yet in a position to defer, in any event. “If they keep increasing taxes, they’re going to push us—who are middle-class—out of our homes.”
Houses line the street of Dunbar neighbourhood in Vancouver, BC on May 29, 2018. (Photograph by Jimmy Jeong)
Davidoff himself is a target for his support of the new measures. One angry homeowner wrote a letter to his neighbours denouncing Davidoff as a “socialist” and encouraged them to write to his employer to muzzle him. Davidoff wasn’t expecting that kind of reaction, but he’s also not completely surprised. “Back in college,” he says, “someone once told me real estate brings out the worst in people.”
Darren and Hannah have seen the same real-estate-fuelled rage, but for different reasons. The young Vancouver couple run a blog called City Duo, which recounts their experiences supporting new housing developments. The pair often attend open houses and council meetings related to residential real estate proposals to support development. Although they’re homeowners, they have friends who have struggled to ﬁnd rentals, still live with their parents or moved away due to the region’s housing crunch. More supply of all kinds, they believe, can help. “We believe it’s important for people to know what’s going on so they can have their say,” Hannah says. But the anti-development vitriol is so intense they use pseudonyms online.
People have told them off, screamed at them and come inches from Darren’s face. “There were a couple of times I was concerned I could get hit.” At one open house for a proposed rental building on the west side recently, some attendees demanded city staff throw them out since the couple didn’t live in the neighbourhood. At the same meeting, one man likened the development to a “forced abortion.” The proposal called for 12 units.
Why some residents of a region in the midst of an affordability crisis would oppose development is puzzling to Darren and Hannah. The couple categorize the resistance into three broad camps: those simply afraid of what change will bring; those who feel development plans have been forced on them; and ﬁnally, people who simply don’t want change. “They’re in it for their own selﬁsh desires,” Darren says. “They’re happy that their property values have gone up. They bought into exclusivity and feel they’re entitled to it.” While that attitude isn’t exclusive to the west side of Vancouver, neighbourhoods replete with detached homes tend to be the most vocal in opposing increased density. (Ironically, many west-side neighbourhoods have seen their populations decline in recent years.)
Support for development has come at a political cost for Hector Bremner. He won a Vancouver council seat last year for the Non-Partisan Association, a local political party, running on a pro-development platform. But in May, the NPA board rejected his candidacy for the mayoral election later this year. There were concerns about conflicts of interest, since Bremner works for a media relations ﬁrm that represents developers. But Bremner claims he was turned away for his views on housing. “It had everything to do with it,” he says. “There was a takeover of the board of, essentially, anti-housing people.”
Bremner is forming a new party to tackle Vancouver’s housing crisis, and development remains a key pillar. “We are not going to tax and ban our way to prosperity,” he says. The city has made progress in allowing laneway homes and basement suites, but Bremner argues that’s not enough. “Families deserve more than raising their children in the basement suite of some 70-year-old house,” he says. With no city-wide development plan, growth happens on a piecemeal basis. If residents had more certainty about how their neighbourhoods will develop, and that the necessary services and amenities will be there to accommodate new residents, there would be far less tension, he argues.
Indeed, opposition to development can’t be reduced to NIMBYism. Developers have a bad reputation in some quarters. Westbank, for example, is helping spearhead an outﬁt called Creative Housing, which has the goal of constructing 50,000 rental units in Vancouver and Toronto. Meanwhile, an ad for a Westbank condo called the Butterfly appeared in a Singapore newspaper in February playing up the investment opportunities. The ad trumpeted a 13.5 per cent capital appreciation, while highlighting Vancouver’s low 0.9 per cent vacancy rate. (Westbank says the majority of the units were bought by locals, and those sold abroad were purchased by new immigrants to Canada, not investors.)
Number of Vancouver homes worth over $1 million skyrocketed from 2014 to 2018
2014: Indicated in red, 23 per cent of single-family residential properties in Metro Vancouver assessed at more than $1 million
2018: Indicated in red, 73 per cent of Vancouver single-family homes are worth more than $1 million
The criticism is that developers build not to house people but to maximize proﬁts from investors, speculators and the wealthy. Metro Vancouver’s housing stats lend some credence to that view. In the past 20 years, the region averaged 1,411 market rentals and 421 social housing units. That compares to 16,489 houses, condos and the like for purchase.
These pressures are coming to a head in Vancouver’s Chinatown district. Melody Ma spearheads a group called #SaveChinatownYVR that aims to fend off “predatory real estate developers and speculators,” according to its website. Unchecked development risks erasing Chinatown, and a signiﬁcant part of Vancouver’s history and culture, the group argues. Walking through the neighbourhood, Ma points out all the ways development has already altered the character of the area. Many of the newer residential buildings, in an attempt to blend in, feature red accents (“Red, China—get it?” she deadpans), while a large green lantern sits awkwardly atop another building. “That actually looks like a mosquito lantern to the rest of us,” she says. Such ersatz features ring hollow, she argues, while the buildings risk displacing long-time Chinatown residents, many of whom are low-income seniors.
“This building is just a big block of gold,” Ma says of a rental complex on the eastern edge of Chinatown. The building’s gold trim seems to glitter in the sun. During construction last year, a ﬁrewall collapsed and damaged the small building next to it, which housed the Lee’s Benevolent Association of Canada, a clan association and social club. The group had to temporarily move out. Meanwhile, a 430-sq.-foot unit in the building, which is marketed with the slogan “Where Eastern culture meets Western living,” goes for $1,700 per month.
In 2014, only 23 per cent of houses were worth $1 million, now it’s 73 per cent
Last year, Ma and other community groups vigorously fought a nine-storey condo. Vancouver’s permit board rejected the proposal, the ﬁrst in 11 years. The site is an empty lot surrounded by a chain-link fence today. Just down the street is a sleek showroom for another condo called Sparrow. She points to the scale model of the condo inside the showroom, which resembles a luxe boutique hotel. “Who is this really for?” she says.
The question might be applied to all of Vancouver. “We’ve had 16 years of a government that refused to do anything on the housing ﬁle, except build and build market housing,” says Andy Yan, director of the City Program at SFU, referring to the B.C. Liberals, now in opposition. Meeting at an east Vancouver café, Yan pulls out his laptop and opens a presentation he gave recently to an affordable-housing conference. One slide shows the percentage of homes worth more than $1 million in Metro Vancouver. In 2014, the ﬁgure stood at 23 per cent, represented by a cluster of red mostly conﬁned to the west side. Yan flicks through each successive year, and more areas bloom bright red. As of this year, 73 per cent of single-family homes soared above $1 million. “We could have made certain circuit breakers, and we wouldn’t be in this mess,” he says.
Yan knows how divisive conversations around Vancouver real estate can be. For years, he was amassing research showing the influential role of foreign capital, predominantly from the Asia-Paciﬁc region, and how the market detached from economic fundamentals and even our conception of what housing is for. Yan’s ﬁndings were met with skepticism at best. He was even accused of fuelling xenophobia. He likens the reaction to climate change denial.
But the recent government policies are a start, he says. He would still like to see a tax on flipping, but the measures offer at least some hope that property in Vancouver will become less of a commodity, and homes will just be places to live again. To get there, prices must slow, wealth must be taxed, neighbourhoods must densify—not just with condos, but affordable rental and social housing stock, too. “It’s a test of civic virtue,” Yan says. “What community can be built from what we’re willing to sacriﬁce? That’s the test.”
In his latest commentary, Todd warns that Canadian sovereignty is under threat from a lawsuit filed by some foreigners against the British Columbia government for imposing a tax on their purchase of homes in parts of the province.
The NDP-Green party alliance government recently raised the tax to 20 percent and expanded where it will be applied. It started in Metro Vancouver at 15 percent in August 2016 under the previous B.C. Liberal government.
Who can argue against the sovereignty cause when the housing story is often framed as an unfair contest between Canada’s hard-pressed middle class and the invading horde of wealthy foreigners?
Certainly, the B.C. government is well within its right to impose without warning a tax on foreigners buying real estate—and just about anything—within the province.
This is what sovereignty is about. Case closed if we accept the argument presented by Todd and his allies.
Not so fast.
Here are four factors to consider, especially in the manner and circumstances in which the B.C. government of then Premier Christy Clark dropped the tax on unsuspecting foreign buyers.
First, nationalism is a game that others can play.
Throughout history, governments have used the principle of sovereignty and nationalism to not only impose taxes on foreigners without warning, but also to seize and nationalize their assets.
The unpredictable Trump administration would be within its right to introduce new special taxes on Canadians for owning property in the United States.
The states of Florida and Arizona could impose a “Snowbird Tax” or an empty-home tax on Canadians for “exploiting” their warm weather during the winter.
B.C. should be warned that it has laid the argument for America’s numerous debt-burdened states to hit Canadians with future arbitrary taxes.
In 2016, then premier Christy Clark and her finance minister, Mike de Jong, introduced a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver residential real estate.
Secondly, trust and goodwill. When Chinese national Jing Li bought her townhome in 2016, she did so in complete trust and good faith that the B.C. government did not distinguish her as a foreigner.
Indeed, up to mid-2016, the government had given no signs that it blamed foreign demand for Metro Vancouver’s rising home prices.
Then, in a show of unpredictability to make Trump proud, it hit Jing Li and many middle-class foreigners with the tax.
Let’s be clear: this tax was borne out of resentment and anger. It culminated a rising political tide that blamed foreign buyers for Metro Vancouver’s housing problems.
The influential group of journalists and academics who sold this storyline to the world has downplayed, even ignored, a host of other factors for the region’s runaway housing prices—supply constraints by incompetent government at all levels, restrictive regulations on construction, surging domestic demand from within Canada, B.C.’s strong economy, the intergenerational transfer of wealth, the lending practices of Canada’s banks and secondary mortgage lenders, the prolonged low interest rate environment, et cetera.
For foreign investors, the sudden tax represents innocence lost. B.C. actively courts foreign capital and skills to grow its economy, but, hypocritically, it harbours distrust and ill will toward the same foreigners who want to invest and live in the province.
Many of those affected had intended to become Canadians, hardly the footloose jet-setting wealthy portrayed in the media.
Now that the trust is broken in the name of sovereignty, what other betrayal lies ahead?
When in opposition, the NDP, criticized the B.C. Liberal government for the harshness of the law, in particular for its failure to consider a "grandfather" exemption for those snared by the timing of the tax between announcement and implementation.
But once voted into power, the NDP government not only retained its predecessor’s position, it went further to betray the trust and goodwill of its own supporters.
Today, it has extended its target to include Canadians with the proposed school tax for high-end homes and the extension of the empty-home tax beyond Vancouver.
Some have argued that the school tax is a small sum for the lucky few, but it completely ignores the point about breaking trust and setting the precedent for more and worse measures to come.
Tax protests have erupted on Vancouver's West Side after homeowners were given no warning that the NDP was going to impose a property surtax.CHARLIE SMITH
This leads to the third consideration: the rule of law. Desperate to “do something” about the housing issue, the Clark government imposed the knee-jerk tax to appease populist sentiments without improving affordability for anyone. As nonvoters, these foreigners had few rights and no political representation to counter this decision.
No reasonable person begrudges the state’s right to tax, but the B.C. government’s heavy-handed decision was bound to invite a challenge. Jing Li’s lawsuit is her only recourse, and law-abiding Canadians should applaud that.
Even more importantly and contrary to Todd’s assertion, the suit deeply affirms Canadians’ sovereignty by underlining that this country operates on the rule of law.
The B.C. government is not running Venezuela, but it has shown that it has just as much power to appropriate the wealth of investors, foreign and local.
The lawsuit, ironically by foreigners, serves to defend Canadians’ sovereign right to wealth protection against the encroaching and arbitrary powers of the state.
Lastly, the wrong evocation of sovereignty will only encourage further pig-headed Canadian populism emboldened by years of unbalanced reporting in the mainstream media. While government failure brought about the affordable housing problem in Vancouver and Toronto, the media played accomplice by directing public anger at the most identifiable target: foreign investors and offshore capital, particularly those from China.
Anyone who thinks that blaming Chinese migrants and capital has no impact on race relations in Canada is deluded.
The discussion on Chinese capital needs to happen within a broad framework, taking into account Canada’s growing need for funding, and how it ought to manage trade and investment with the world’s second-largest economy.
Sadly for Canada, the simpletons are in charge. They have reduced all discussion on Chinese capital to that of a national threat to Canada’s sovereignty.
The call to rally the people against Jing Li’s lawsuit is a serious threat to Canada’s sovereignty. It serves to entrench belligerence in government and encourage jingoism among Canadians at a time when the country’s uncompetitive economy badly needs to attract talent and investment, both local and foreign.
Canada’s sovereignty is at risk when its economy is weak and its policymaking is guided by public anger built on unbalanced media reporting.
Ng Weng Hoong is a Vancouver journalist with more than 30 years of experience covering the energy industry in Asia and the Middle East.
Patrick Condon has been a professor in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture for 25 years and has chaired the Design Centre for more than 20 years.
He hopes to become the nominee for the Coalition of Progressive Electors.
“This city is fast becoming a pretty place to park your cash and to visit on vacation once or twice, the Monaco of North America," Condon said in a news release. "This is not the city we want for our sons and daughters, a city for the one percent while the 99 percent have to leave town.”
He will officially launch his campaign on Monday (June 11) at Sitka Square in the False Creek South neighbourhood.
It was developed in the 1970s by the TEAM-led council and includes co-ops and social housing on land leased by the city.
Condon said that his goal is to increase the percentage of nonmarket housing in Vancouver from 15 percent to 50 percent.
“With the support of the federal and provincial governments, the city should build sufficient public housing on land made permanently public like they do in many European countries," he declared. "Vienna is a model for what Vancouver could do. If we fail this city will soon become nothing more than a parking place for cash and a pretty place to visit.|
He also called for a rent freeze and amendments to tenancy legislation to outlaw "renovictions or demovictions".
Condon has long been a supporter of street-level light rail rather than the far more costly Broadway subway.
"Our priority must be affordable housing in sustainable communities," Condon said in today's news release. "Not ludicrously expensive vanity projects that just make our housing problems worse. Such projects only benefit Vancouver’s ‘booster class’ not its middle class."
In an interview with the Straight in 2010, Condon said he was willng to risk being arrested to halt the Gordon Campbell government's Gateway Program, which was a costly series of road-building projects.
It riled climate activists because it was going to lead to the loss of a huge amount of farmland and had the potential to jack up B.C.'s greenhouse-gas emissions by inducing more vehicle traffic..
One component involved widening Highway 1 from East Vancouver to Langley.
According to a Straight article by Matthew Burrows, Condon joined other anti-Gateway activists at a demonstration on a cold night in December 2009.
“Civil disobedience, in the face of injustices of the past—in South Africa or the American South and to some extent the Vietnam War era—was an important thing to do for many people," Condon said at the time. "So I feel similarly moved in this case.”
Condon is the fourth person seeking the mayoralty with a track record of opposing the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The others are independent candidate and Carbon Talks founder Shauna Sylvester, NDP MP and independent candidate Kennedy Stewart, and Vision Vancouver candidate Ian Campbell. All three of them have been outspoken critics of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, with Campbell going to court to fight it and Stewart choosing to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
University of B.C. professor emeritus David Ley draws a direct line between the development industry and past governments that courted foreign investment.
DEPT. OF GEOGRAPHY, UBC
All levels of government have courted foreign money and actively encouraged it for decades, and we are seeing the consequences of that policy in Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market today.
That’s the general message from University of B.C. professor emeritus David Ley, who filed his expert opinion on behalf of the province in response to a lawsuit filed by young Lower Mainland property owner and Chinese citizen Jing Li.
The lawsuit launched against the government’s foreign-buyer transfer tax is a pivotal, potentially costly case for British Columbians. In the past few months, both sides have been requesting expert opinions to support their case.
The province sought out a report from Dr. Ley, and affidavits from Simon Fraser University adjunct professor Andy Yan and citizen activist Justin Fung. The plaintiff’s lawyers also questioned Prof. Yan and Dr. Ley in recent examinations for discovery, which are part of the pretrial process. For many years, Prof. Yan and Dr. Ley have been sounding alarm bells about the impact of foreign capital pouring into the region’s housing market. They offer the Crown’s defence years of formidable research into the origins and scope of the crisis.
Ms. Li’s lawsuit could become a much bigger class action against the province. Her lawyer, Luciana Brasil, says there is a long list of foreign buyers backing her claim that the tax discriminates against Chinese nationals, and it’s a move that the province did not have the legal power to make. Ms. Li says she was forced to pay an additional $83,850 after the foreign-buyer transfer tax was introduced, when she purchased a townhouse in Langley. The Burnaby resident says her family and friends helped her buy the property.
Local experts have already submitted affidavits on behalf of the plaintiff and the crown as part of a summary trial scheduled for the weeks of June 25 and July 16.
In the second wave of affidavits, Dr. Ley and Prof. Yan were asked by the province’s lawyers to prepare responses to expert opinions submitted on behalf of the plaintiff. They responded to opinions given by University of B.C. professors Tom Davidoff, Henry Yu and Nathanael Lauster, and Jens von Bergmann, a mathematician and consultant. The plaintiff’s lawyers are setting out to prove that the tax is discriminatory, did not achieve the intended result of lowering property values and that it is not within the province’s power to implement such a tax.
UBC economist Tsur Somerville has already provided an affidavit on behalf of the crown, as did Simon Fraser University finance professor Andrey Pavlov.
Dr. Ley doesn’t mince words in his expert opinion. He draws a direct line between the development industry and past governments that courted foreign investment. Government enthusiastically invited foreign capital, he says, and today, we see the consequences.
He explains that B.C. governments, facing a declining resource-based economy, have sought out East Asian investment since the 1980s. Starting with the sale of the Expo 86 site in 1988, the province made it abundantly clear that it was open to doing business with Asia, particularly in residential-property development, says Dr. Ley.
“This policy has been attractive to BC development and real estate companies, and they have formed an informal growth coalition with government,” he writes. “In the face of growing public criticism, the growth coalition has engaged in various discursive tactics to preserve capital flows to property and disqualify dissenting voices. One tactic has been to allude to racist motives when reference is made to East Asian sources of property capital in the Vancouver region.”
In regard to Dr. Lauster and Dr. Yu, who argue that the foreign-buyer transfer tax is part of a legacy of racism in Vancouver, Dr. Ley concurs with the historic part of their account. However, he says, “in Vancouver’s challenging housing market, Chinese Canadians are equally subject to acute affordability pressures and are among the leaders in urging solutions. Unlike the colonial period, there is no ethno-racial divide that neatly separates, homogenizes, and penalizes populations of East Asian origin.”
Dr. Ley has been a professor of urban geography at UBC since 1972, specializing in housing markets and immigration from Greater China. His research culminated in his 2010 book, Millionaire Migrants. He also studied housing bubbles in Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and London, and how global capital has shaped property markets in those cities. Dr. Ley had been asked by Crown attorney Karen Horsman to respond to expert reports prepared on behalf of the plaintiff by Dr. Lauster and Dr. Yu.
Dr. Ley also addressed government’s continuing desire to keep the foreign money flowing into the region, as part of the “growth coalition.” Dr. Ley explained in an email that sociologist Harvey Molotch had coined the term “grown machine” in 1976 to describe the alliance of politicians and developers.
“I’m using the term ‘growth coalition’ to describe that convergence of political and land development interests, both of them pursuing growth for overlapping but not identical reasons,” Dr. Ley says.
British Columbia, he says, has been particularly active in its trade tours to Hong Kong and China’s Mainland cities, “to prime the pump of economic relations.” The province has become dependent on the fees generated by the Business Immigrant Program (BIP) and real estate tax revenues. He cites the NDP opposition to the federal government’s effort to get tough with tax evasion in the 1990s, with tougher enforcement of the BIP. The development community also reacted.
“It seemed that more important than accurate reporting of global income was the imperative to keep the money flowing into BC,” he writes.
Prof. Yan is director of the City Program at SFU, adjunct professor in Urban Studies and UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning, and a registered planner and housing data analyst who regularly speaks on housing issues in the media and at conferences worldwide.
Architect and statistician Andy Yan is a registered planner and housing data analyst who regularly speaks on housing issues.
The plaintiff’s lawyers questioned Prof. Yan on May 25 for about four hours. In his submission, he addressed reports already submitted by Professors Yu and Lauster and Dr. von Bergmann. He took the experts to task for failing to address the hyper-commodification of housing as well as immigrant-settlement patterns in the region, property type, period of construction and the impact of unaffordability on Chinese Canadians. He cited the first dataset provided by the federal government on non-resident ownership in Metro Vancouver, released in December, 2017. The National Housing Statistics program showed that foreign nationals had purchased 4.8 per cent of all property types in Metro Vancouver. However, of all condos built between 2016 and 2017, foreign national buyers accounted for 7.6 per cent in Vancouver, 10.9 per cent in Richmond, and 23 per cent in Coquitlam.
“The lack of detail can greatly affect what is assumed as the state of non-resident ownership in Metro Vancouver,” he said in his submission. “Conclusions should not be drawn from the NHSP without careful consideration of the context and geographic scale of the details of the data.”
He critiqued Dr. Yu’s and Dr. Lauster’s reports for disregarding the vast documentation and media reports on the globalization of residential real estate.
“Governments around the world have implemented policies including taxes to limit the role of foreign nationals in [the] local residential real estate market,” he writes. “These reports also fail to acknowledge the agency of Chinese Canadians and other visible minorities as political and social actors who have actively and publicly advocated for policies to deal with foreign ownership and capital in Vancouver.”
In his examination for discovery, Prof. Yan cited Justin Fung and Eveline Xia, who launched the #donthave1million campaign, as some of the most vocal of that group.
Justin Fung helped launch the non-profit group Housing Action for Local Taxpayers.
Mr. Fung is a Vancouver-born Chinese Canadian who works in the tech industry. He helped launch the non-profit group, Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT), which takes the position that the affordability crisis is due largely to offshore wealth buying into the region’s housing market. It’s wealth that has been “facilitated by a powerful property development and real estate lobby that have too long influenced government policy and have profited significantly off this foreign investment and housing affordability crisis,” Mr. Fung writes in his affidavit, on behalf of the crown.
HALT supports the foreign-buyers tax as a necessary measure to address the affordability crisis. The group has gone as far as supporting an outright ban on foreign ownership of residential property.
Many members of the group are visible minorities, including Asians, Mr. Fung said in an interview.
“One of the reasons why I personally became involved in HALT and started speaking out was because I saw that others who were publicly citing the role of foreign buyers in price escalation – in particular, the role of wealthy Chinese foreign buyers – were attracting accusations of racism… I considered that I was in a position to contribute usefully to the public discourse, without the fear that others might have of being labelled racist,” he says.
He says that public concern about Chinese wealth flowing into Metro Vancouver is not about race. Instead, he argues, “the concern is fundamentally about class and wealth inequality… if left unchecked, the inflow will create serious wealth inequity in Canadian society which in turn will exacerbate stereotyping and racism towards Chinese Canadians.”
Two hundred Chinese citizens denied visas for Vancouver conference
PUBLISHED 2 DAYS AGOUPDATED JUNE 7, 2018
The organizer of a recent conference in Vancouver organized in part by the Chinese government says around 200 would-be attendees, including dozens of high-ranking officials, had their visa applications rejected.
The ninth Conference of the World Guangdong Community Federation, which was organized by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of China’s Guangdong Province and Guangdong Community Association of Canada, took place in Vancouver at the end of May.
Organizers expected about 2,000 people from around the world who were originally from Guangdong province, but about 200 delegates, including officials from the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office that helped organize the summit, had their visas rejected.
William Ma, a businessman who was among the local organizers for the conference, said most of the denied visas involved people from mainland China, including a team of more than 20 government officials from Guangdong province, as well as some from Thailand and Central and South America.
He said only one official from the Guangdong delegation team was able to attend the event, but this person applied the visa separately.
“Only one person [from the co-host team] came. This is absurd,” Mr. Ma said. “Of course, I am unhappy. Besides that, I feel why Canada is so nervous now? They came to spend money. Why deny their visas?”
The spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Shannon Ker, said there would be a compelling reason why someone would be prevented from entering Canada, but she said privacy laws prevented her from discussing details of any specific case.
Ms. Ker said visa applications are also considered on a case-by-case basis based on the information presented by the applicant.
Mr. Ma said the organizers sent out invitations to guests in January this year. According to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it takes about 11 days for a Chinese citizen to obtain a temporary-resident visa.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said she was “taken aback” when she learned about the rejected visas.
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“For some of the lead organizers from Guangdong, China, not be able to have the visas approved to come and participate is more than embarrassing,” she said in an interview.
Ms. Kwan said she raised the issue at a recent parliamentary committee on citizenship and immigration and also raised it with Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in a private meeting.
Ms. Kwan said she understood that some of the delegates whose visas were rejected had been to Canada before without incident.
“What exactly is the problem is something that I would really like the government to get to the bottom of.”
The Chinese consulate in Vancouver declined to comment. The embassy in Ottawa did not respond to requests for comment.
China expert Charles Burton, a former diplomat at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, said the Chinese government has been increasingly denying Canadian visas applicants on political grounds.
“The full details of the scope and range of this is known only to the Chinese consular offices in Canada,” he said. “But it is extensive and negatively impacts on the development of Canada-China relations.”
He added the Canadian government is also growing more concerned about the activities of agents of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.
The event’s co-chair, Lam Siu Ngai, who is also the founding president of the Canada Chaoshan Business Association, noted the event is intended to provide an opportunity for Cantonese Chinese to get together and make connections with one another.
The conference’s schedule shows discussion of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative – a massive trade infrastructure initiative that aims to connect the country to many parts of Asia, Europe and Africa via ports, rail lines and roads – was to receive major emphasis during the event.
It’s the first time the conference has been held in North America. It previously took place in Singapore, Malaysia and Austria. In 2020, it will move to London.
Major candidates for Vancouver mayor short on new ideas for housing woes
Everyone agrees the situation is a crisis, but Vision and NPA are thin on details
Justin McElroy · CBC News · Posted: Jun 08, 2018 6:00 AM PT | Last Updated: June 8
The benchmark price of a detached home on the west side of Vancouver in May 2018 was $3.4 million, up 115 per cent in the past decade, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)
It's one thing to run for mayor of Vancouver and declare that housing affordability is your number one issue.
It's another to explain how the city became so unaffordable.
"The number one issue that I've heard in listening to the people of Vancouver is affordable housing," said Ian Campbell Thursday after he was formally acclaimed as Vision Vancouver's mayoral candidate.
"That, bar none, is the number one issue, and I share that priority that it is a crisis, and it's urgent."
It's a sentiment expressed by all four high-profile mayoral candidates — Campbell, Non-Partisan Association (NPA) candidate Ken Sim, and independents Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart — at the public start of their official campaigns.
But at this stage of the campaign, the candidates don't appear to be offering anything new.
Specifics on why we got here, or how candidates would improve the situation — which, as a reminder, involves the highest average rents in Canada, lowest vacancy rates and home prices that have doubled in the last decade — have been in short supply.
It's a tightrope for Campbell in particular: how do you acknowledge people are demanding solutions to the affordability crisis, while arguing Vision Vancouver is the best team to implement them, after ten years holding the mayor's chair and a majority of seats on council?
"I think there's been a lot of work in the last ten years around laneway houses, social, rental housing, but we can't allow that to just stop," Campbell said.
"We need to continue that trajectory ... it's essential we continue to build on the tangible results that Vision has created."
When asked at a news conference if those claims were contradictory to the idea of a city in crisis, Campbell responded by talking about his other priorities.
Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Ian Campbell speaks to reporters on the day he was acclaimed as his party's nominee. (Justin McElroy/CBC)
NPA candidate says platform to come
It leaves the door open for other mayoral candidates to define their housing policies against Vision Vancouver — but so far, the other major candidates in the race haven't done so.
"We got into this mess because city hall overspent," said NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim, speaking to party members before he was chosen as their nominee on Sunday night.
Sim told the audience about his transition from a working-class child — he had jobs cleaning toilets — to becoming a successful businessman.
He then expressed concern with today's working-class families while also seeming to express sympathy to owners of pricey homes facing higher property taxes — showing he's adept at straddling both sides of an issue, or unable to take a real stand, depending on your point of view.
"I'm saddened and kind of disgusted when I hear people can't afford to rent in this city. But it's also disgusting when people are forced out of their homes … because they can't afford the property taxes on their homes anymore, in some cases, more than what they paid for their homes. And that's not right."
Sim also spoke about reducing permitting times to speed up housing developments, and said a specific platform from the NPA on housing would be coming out in the weeks ahead.
NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim speaks to the media after his victory on June 3, 2018. (Justin McElroy/CBC)
Smaller parties can push big ideas
With Campbell effectively arguing for a continuation of Vision policies and Sim arguing for lower taxes and greater housing supply, and other parties like COPE and the Green Party currently not fielding a mayoral candidate, people wanting promises designed to lower housing demand may find the race for mayor uninspiring.
"Overall, when I look at it, none of the major parties have policies that will align with [us]," said Raza Mirza, a member of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT).
HALT members have long agitated for local politicians to take bolder action to reduce speculation, and in the NPA leadership race, Mirza supported Glen Chernen, who has been critical of the relationship between developers and local governments.
But Chernen finished a distant third.
There are still dominos to fall in this race and plenty of time for candidates to flesh out their platforms.
At this point though, Vancouver's election looks a lot like recent ones: where leading candidates for mayor stick to safe scripts in search of the most votes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin is a reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering political stories throughout British Columbia.
VANCOUVER—A University of British Columbia professor who says Vancouver’s housing market is “completely broken” plans to run for mayor in Vancouver’s upcoming civic election.
Patrick Condon, who teaches at UBC’s school of landscape architecture, had previously said he would support Green city councillor Adriane Carr if she decided to run for mayor.
Patrick Condon, a professor at UBC's School of Landscape Architecture, announced his intention to run for mayor in Vancouver's upcoming civic election. (PLANNING THE VANCOUVER METROPOLITAN REGION SYMPOSIUM / YOUTUBE)
In a news release, Condon said he doesn’t believe simply adding more housing supply will be enough to combat the city’s extreme housing unaffordability, adding Vancouver’s high home prices have been “driven by the escalating price of land and fuelled by international flows of money.”
“This city is fast becoming a pretty place to park your cash and to visit on vacation once or twice, the Monaco of North America,” he said.
“This is not the city we want for our sons and daughters, a city for the one per cent while the 99 per cent have to leave town.”
Condon wants to increase the share of non-market housing to 50 per cent, saying non-market facilities like social housing and co-operatives currently represent 15 per cent of the city’s share of housing.
He said Vienna, where 60 per cent of the city’s population lives in social housing, should be a model for Vancouver.
Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester, who are both running as independent mayoral candidates, will be speaking with COPE members today to seek the endorsement of the party. It’s possible the party will endorse one of those independents, rather than running a mayoral candidate of its own.
Sylvester recently called for the city to renew the leases of several housing co-ops that sit on city-owned land.
COPE, OneCity, Vision Vancouver and the Greens are all parties that fall on the left to centre-left spectrum, in opposition to the centre-right Non-Partisan Association. So far Vision is the only other progressive party that intends to run a mayoral candidate.
Both OneCity and Hector Bremner, an NPA councillor who was rejected as a mayoral candidate by his own party, advocate changing zoning in Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods to allow denser housing to be built: OneCity would like to limit that new housing to be rental apartments, while Bremner favours a mix of rental and market condos. Bremner is now mulling forming his own party.
Jen St. Denis is a Vancouver-based reporter covering affordability and city hall. Follow her on Twitter: @jenstden
Italian Day on The Drive is a vibrant cultural street festival celebrating Italian culture, heritage and community with over 120 street participants, comprised of partners, merchants, vendors and community organizations – and an estimated 200,000+ attendees of all ages and cultures. Commercial Drive (The Drive), home to Little Italy, is the designated location for the annual festival where the street is transformed into a lively 14 block festa. Since Italian Day’s return in 2010, the event today represents the largest one day cultural street festival in Vancouver – and perhaps in Canada. A festive community embrace, The Drive comes alive in green, white and red with piazza style animated zones, live music, food, patios, fashion, retail vendors, vehicles, activities, children’s zones and more.
Welcome to 2018 – A Flavour…
Italian Day 2018 Theme: Musica
As a centrepiece theme of this year’s event, we feature Musica. Important in the realm of Italian heritage and culture, Italy’s music has been traditionally considered one of the cultural markers of Italian national and ethnic identity. Italian innovation in musical scales, harmony, notation and theatre enabled the development of opera in the late 16th century and much of modern European classical music. The music of Italy ranges from opera and instrumental classical music to a body of popular music drawn from native and imported sources. Key domestic styles include Canzona Napoletana (Neopolitan Song), singer-songwriter cantautori traditions and Italian regional folk music, which spans a diverse array of styles, instruments and dances. Jazz found its way to Italy in the 1920s and today is nurtured in music conservatories, annual jazz festivals and publications. Italian pop rock has produced major international stars like Zucchero resulting in many national and worldwide top hits.
A perfect setting throughout the 14 block festival, the 2018 festival shall see Italian music, showcasing local and national artists from Italy, transport attendees to villages, streets and piazza’s of Italy – full of song, dance and life.
‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything’ – Plato
‘La vera musica, che sa far ridere e all’improvviso ti aiuta a piangere…’ – Paolo Conte ‘Real music can make you laugh and without expecting it can help you cry…’
‘Music can change the world because it can change people.’ – Bono
‘Where words fail, music speaks’ – Hans Christian Andersen
This event would not be possible without the valued and generous support of our partners and sponsors whose contributions have provided us the opportunity to share the festival with Vancouver’s community since 2010. It is with much appreciation that we acknowledge this foundation of support which facilitates the continued growth, success and return of Italian Day on The Drive. Grazie del cuore.