After being vilified for doing the right work for the right reason, urban planner and Duke of Data Andy Yan is now being recognized for his 2015 research in reviewing the ownership of new houses on Vancouver’s west side. What he found was that two-thirds of house buyers had “non-Anglicized Chinese names”. Without any other reliable way to collect the data, Andy Yan provided the first true research into the pouring of foreign dollars into the Vancouver real estate market. This study was important as it showed that Vancouver housing was being held as an appreciating asset instead of its original purpose of actually housing Vancouverites.
As Dan Fumano in the Vancouver Sun writes “key figures in B.C.’s real estate industry criticized Andy Yan’s work and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson responded publicly, saying: “This is a public policy issue, not a race issue — and any confusion to the contrary only risks dividing our city. In a public post on his Facebook page, widely reported in the media at the time, Robertson wrote: “We don’t need … the blaming of any one group of people — or any one kind of last name — for the challenge of housing affordability.”
Well two years have passed, real estate prices have continued a rocketing ride skywards, making accessibility to financing and affordability for local residents real issues. There are also now studies indicating that the majority of jobs in Vancouver will be left unfilled in the near future due to the high cost of housing. Simply put, you can’t make enough money to afford to live here. And the idea that foreign investment could have a negative impact on housing prices is now being discussed at all three levels of government with the City of Vancouver wanting to ” collaborate with the provincial and federal governments to explore the viability of “restricting property ownership by non-permanent residents.”
That is part of the housing strategy that the City will be considering for approval on Tuesday, and is a marked policy change in how foreign ownership of Vancouver housing stock is being viewed. “The idea to investigate foreign ownership restrictions is one of a number of “tax and financial regulations to limit the commodification of housing and land for speculative investment” proposed in the city’s report, along with ideas like introducing a speculation and flipping tax, reforming federal and provincial tax regulations and seeking to “close loopholes.”
No one from the City of Vancouver has apologized to Andy Yan for the mayor’s unfortunate comments on his 2015 groundbreaking study. The dividing of the city that the Mayor referred to has happened not because of Andy Yan’s research, but by the hollowing out of affordable, attainable housing in Vancouver. That is not a “risk dividing the city” but the sad reality of having no municipal policy supporting housing for local people. Hopefully Vancouver’s 10 Year Housing Strategy will mark a new conciliatory approach and respond to emerging data and alarming trends.