We Need More Evidence – “Pooling data sets from BC Hydro, the 2011 census, the Provincial Home Owner Grant and BC Assessment, along with whatever numbers the region’s real estate associations are willing to make public, would create one giant playground for local analysts.”

“When questions about foreign ownership came up at the City’s housing affordability meetings earlier this year, task force members realized the issue was large enough to warrant a separate report. A working group of business and architecture academics was assembled to learn more. Its volunteer members met several times over the course of three months to explore the issue and recently penned a five-page summary of their findings.
The result is underwhelming if you were hoping for closure on the matter, but here’s the takeaway: we still don’t know how foreign investment impacts local real estate, but we have researchers in the city who have developed methodologies to study and interpret the data needed to clarify the situation.
Their conclusion put another way: if the City really wants to understand foreign ownership, it needs to pay researchers and quit relying on the generosity of volunteers.
“At the end of the day, we still have no real idea what the impacts are and if they are good or bad and what that actually means to the city,” says Erick Villagomez, adjunct professor at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and chair of the academic working group behind the report. “We need more evidence.”
The City is hesitant to pledge more money in order to clarify the issue of foreign ownership, at least until it’s sure further study would improve Vancouver’s affordable housing stock in a concrete way.” ..
“Villagomez wants researchers to crunch more numbers to strengthen understanding of the matter. He points to data available from BC Hydro, the 2011 census, the Provincial Home Owner Grant and BC Assessment. He says pooling those data sets along with whatever numbers the region’s real estate associations are willing to make public would create one giant playground for local analysts. The only trouble is finding a pot of money to buy whatever data sets aren’t free and another pot to pay researchers to analyze them.”

‘To Solve Housing Foreign Ownership Puzzle, Someone Must Pay’, Luke Brocki, The Tyee, 19 Nov 2012
[hat-tip ‘poster with infinite number of handles’]

Evidence is good. There is easily accessible information out there that could shed an immense amount of light on the RE market. ‘Play’ in the ‘playground’ of data could be very revealing. We’re all for that.
Foreign ownership is one thing; at least as important is utilization.
BC Hydro data likely already reveals how many units in the city are vacant or under-utilized. Interesting, eh?
Perhaps city council is hesitant to uncover information that threatens the strength of the market.
– vreaa

34 responses to “We Need More Evidence – “Pooling data sets from BC Hydro, the 2011 census, the Provincial Home Owner Grant and BC Assessment, along with whatever numbers the region’s real estate associations are willing to make public, would create one giant playground for local analysts.”

  1. The triumph of open data is that it tuns out you don’t have to pay researchers. Enough people are curious on their own or already getting paid to think about the same problem. Think open source software as an analogue. FRED is a standout example of open data aggregation.

    Even better if the *results* can get shared too. It’s called twitter folks, and a few days later the “internet”.

    • Funny that Clr Reimer is all for opening up City data. Maybe a letter to her might yield some concrete plans on this front for the future. I think the City would like nothing more than to highlight the problem, at least as a way of lobbying other levels of government to do something, because they are pretty much powerless to do much themselves.

  2. I totally agree with your assessment VREAA.

    They know the truth. It is staggering and has significant negative implications on many levels. Right now they are trying hard to “develop” a framework for the “report” to appear from in a manner that cloaks the reality of the situation.

    In other words……..spin, spin, spin.

    What was the info in the last BC HYDRO report that inadvertantly got out to the public anyways ? Wasn’t it something outrageous like 65% of all the Vancouver condos never used electricity, etc ?

  3. Real Estate Tsunami

    I think the City has a good idea what the numbers are.
    They just don’t want to be seen singling out a “Minority”.
    PC always trumps good policy.

    • UBCghettodweller

      As much as I dislike the subtle racism that pervades nearly everything in Vancouver and HAM still is only a minor, but clearly present, contributor the to the bubble market as best I can tell, I agree with you.

      It’s amazing how saying that offshore money is driving up costs of living automatically gets you labelled as racist. The irony being that if it is largely Mainland Chinese driving up the prices, it’s hurting any Chinese already living in Vancouver who actually want to become Canadian or are already Canadian citizens. This isn’t an ethnic or a racial issue, it’s a nationality issue.

    • There are more Americans buying in Vancouver than offshore Asians. Book it.

  4. I’m not sensing too much of a conspiracy here. My favourite method would be looking for garbage bins on pickup day over a 4-5 week period. BTA did some analysis on Hydro usage, he had some important caveats using these data for drawing conclusions on occupancy.

    As I’ve stated multiple times translating Hydro usage to “foreign ownership” is riddled with details that make the data difficult to draw significant conclusions. “Foreign” is a nebulous word.

    • Real Estate Tsunami

      I like the suggestion re checking the garbage.
      The results would then be “Garbage in, Garbage out”. LOL.
      Maybe instead of foreign owners, we should call them “absentee owners”.

  5. To say that there is ZeroPoliticalWill to reveal what is already known or suspected in senior policy circles would be to severely understate the polis’ prevailing temperament of [well funded] deliberate mystification.

    Meanwhile, way up there in PrinceGeorge – an object lesson in ‘how the world really works’ – as brought to you by the same lobbyists who helped to dismantle BC Rail…

    [G&M] – Brewery That Supported BC Cabinet Minister Gains Millions On Disputed Tax Break

    …”A B.C. brewery owned by a staunch Liberal Party supporter who recently made an in-kind donation of nearly $27,000 to a fundraiser for cabinet minister Rich Coleman stands to benefit to the tune of millions of dollars from taxation changes recently announced by the Liquor Distribution Branch…. Disclosure of party contributions have only been updated to April 19 of this year, but the records filed with Elections BC show that Kazuko Komatsu and Pacific Western Brewing Co. have been steady contributors to the B.C. Liberal Party. In 2011, which would typically be a slow year for election fundraising, the company made a dozen donations to the party adding up to nearly $25,000.”….


    [NoteToED: Seriously, a BreweryOwning CherryBlossom who established her empire’s BC foothold with NaturalGas and RawLog exports?… StrangeBrew, indeed. “Chivalrous Organizations”?]

    • Brewery’s are very important to the United Nations demographic transition team. What do you think was at the root of the Rwanda Massacre? If you said copious amounts of beer, you are correct.

      But, you know, who really cares about solving this riddle, or any riddle? Including the riddle of housing. The point is that your solving a problem, and not pursuing an opportunity. Which is what aggregaters hope to achieve by managing the data.

  6. Well… we may “need more evidence”… but it’s abundantly clear that when it comes to ‘making public’ and ‘playgrounds’ – SanFranciscan’s would prefer rather less… ‘evidence’.

    DearReaders… your WednesdayMorningZen… and Quote O’TheDay courtesy of the eponymous, Mr. Wiener:

    “This legislation is really about genitals.” – Scott Wiener, SanFranciso Board of Supervisors

    [CommonDreams] – San Francisco Bans Nakedness, Sort Of

    …”The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 Tuesday night to enact a new ordinance that makes it illegal for anyone to “expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region” in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit.

    Exemptions would be made, however, for nudists at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the annual Pride Parade and the Folsom Street Fair — the annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair.”….


  7. How about every municipality being obligated to find out the social insurance numbers, citizenship and legal status of every owner of residential and commercial properties? I mean banks and brokerages have to do it if someone wants to open up an account, why not municipalities?

  8. Real Estate Tsunami

    In Europe, you have to register when you move into a Municipality.
    And deregister, when you leave.

  9. My street alone has like 3 or 4 big new empty homes. There wasn’t one light on this year on my side of the block during Halloween. The garbage can idea is a good one as well. Another data collection method could be checking BC Assessment data to see which properties have doubled or tripled in ‘value’ the past few years, especially ones with recent solds. In Vancouver West for example, anything that was originally say 1 to 1.5 for land value only and then was redeveloped and sold for 3, 4, 5+ million, you can bet that a very high percentage of whoever bought those were HAM / offshore / foreign money.

    • Guy I know living in Richmond bought a teardown about 3 years ago, is in the process of building a new place, likely $400Kish if he knows what he’s doing. His SO wants a new house, guy works as a construction contractor of some form. He came from China in mid 2000s with wife two young children. Nice guy, but I have no idea what he did before coming to Canada. Is this “HAM”? No idea, but to me it looks more like the poor soul is encountering significant domestic pressures to upsize.

  10. If you’ve ever rented or employed the services of a realtor in Vancouver then you should know who the predominant buyers of Vancouver RE are. Here’s a hint: apparently it’s the same group that buys the bulk of luxury cars sold in Vancouver. This should be all the data anyone with any common sense needs.

    • 4SlicesofCheese

      I think the financial health of the buyer is more important than the ethnicity.

    • Naked Official #9000

      Airedales this is disharmonious racism!

      how dare you observe things and become vocal about it

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        I think Airdales is referring to the Germans.
        Time to put a quota on them.

      • You should hear my vocalizations in the Burnaby school parking lot and on the crosswalks. I’ve seen these fuckers nearly drive over a group of kids walking to school just to jump out in front of traffic. It’s easy to see why Vancouver more and more resembles a public toilet.

      • Naked Official #9000

        They’re just Canadian kids, who cares?

  11. Let’s be honest, no politician is ever going to risk offending a voting bloc in order to get to the bottom of this problem (heck, I’m surprised they found the stones to ban shark fin soup). So we’re all stuck with the results of the issue.

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