Question (woman at microphone): “I would like to hear your comments on limiting foreign ownership as it addresses local affordability.”
Brent Toderian [Brent Toderian, former Director of City Planning, COV]: “Great question.”
Other male panelist: “I call that the elephant in the room.”
Toderian: “I’m really glad you brought it up because I had it on my list. That is the elephant crushing the table. It’s not under it, it’s not on top of it. It’s something the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability dropped the ball on. The competition between external demand and local demand — that’s the nicest way I can put it — is one of the reasons that barring a collapse and a crash, we are going to remain a very expensive city to own in.”
- from exchange at a keynote panel discussion on “Living Affordably in Greater Vancouver” at BUILDEX (convention on designing, building and managing real estate), Vancouver Convention Centre, 13-14 Feb 2013. Quoted in comment by ‘urbanizta’ at their own blog ‘CityHallWatch’, 15 Feb 2013 at 12:01am
To say “barring a collapse and a crash, we are going to remain a very expensive city to own in” is a tautology; it’s like saying “if prices don’t go down, they will stay up”. In other words, to say this is to say nothing at all.
That aside, this exchange, and the article above the comment, does demonstrate how people are continuing to wrestle with the issue of ‘foreign ownership’ and how it may effect the Vancouver market. The discussion is hobbled by a number of things: lack of actual data, lack of political will to gather pertinent data, the mixing-up of local and foreign buyers, and a lack of understanding of what constitutes speculation. We anticipate that this issue will continue to be ineffectively churned over in many similar discussions while prices begin to collapse. Once the price collapse is convincingly underway, we won’t hear much about ‘foreign ownership’ for quite some time. Firstly, because foreign buyers, like local speculators, will disappear in a falling market; they are momentum players and hate any asset falling in price. Secondly, many locals will be dearly wishing for buyers – any buyer – to rescue them from their real estate holdings. Once prices have ground down into a trough (likely over years); once speculation has been wrung out of the market and the dust settles; – then there will likely be a meaningful place for civic discussion about the wisdom of regulation of foreign ownership.
Currently, the far, far larger ‘elephant in the room’ is a speculative mania that has yet to unwind.