Buyers from mainland China are leading a wave of Asian investment in Vancouver real estate as China tries to damp property speculation at home. Good schools, a marine climate and the large, established Asian community as a result of Canada’s liberal immigration policy make Vancouver attractive, said Cathy Gong, who moved from Shanghai to the Shaughnessy neighborhood on Vancouver’s Westside about three years ago.“The schools here are the best and there are a lot of Chinese people here,” said Gong, whose son is in sixth grade at Shaughnessy Elementary School. Eastern Canada wasn’t an option because “I cannot bear cold weather,” Gong said. Vancouver has the second-largest immigrant Chinese population in Canada after Toronto.
The usual arguments of Vancouver's attractiveness, good schools, temperate climate, large Chinese community, and favourable immigration policies are cited as reasons for the high level of investment in Vancouver real estate. Of course the article fails to mention how, even after the multiple "waves" of Chinese immigrants over the years, the majority of homeowners and homebuyers are still local.
Anyways, the Bloomberg story is fun for discussion but not to be outdone, Bank of Canada Mark Carney gave a speech today on the shifting sands of the global economy. Although drier than Bloomberg, I tend to pay more attention to what Carney says, given the power and influence the Bank possesses over Canada's economy. Of particular interest to Vancouver housing market enthusiasts are the following quotes, first on capital flows (emphasis mine):
While emerging economies are having difficulties absorbing large private flows, advanced economies have often misallocated surges in yield-insensitive gross claims. In Canada, as elsewhere, large capital inflows will require vigilance from public authorities and private financial institutions. Financial history, particularly during times of large power shifts, is rife with examples of booms stoked by dumb money that turn good situations to bad.
And then on inflation risks:
The possibility of greater momentum in household borrowing and spending in Canada represents an upside risk to inflation in Canada. The persistent strength of the Canadian dollar could create even greater headwinds for our economy, putting additional downward pressure on inflation in Canada.
How does these statements segue with the Bloomberg article? Well it's hard to completely understand the context of Carney's statements regarding capital flows. If, for argument's sake, we were to look at the investment in Vancouver real estate in the past 5 years due to immigrants and nationals from Asia, we might start thinking that, on a cumulative basis so as to make it into a tangible and sizeable economic entity, Vancouver real estate might actually be drawing the attention of policy makers. Based on that inference alone it seems like articles like the one from Bloomberg are not going unread in the halls of Ottawa.
As I mentioned in a previous post, it looks unlikely that nation-wide action to further subdue household credit through CMHC policy changes is likely, with much of the country apparently cutting back debt growth. Two regions -- Vancouver and Toronto -- seem to be showing an immunity to debt curbs as prices continue to increase in the face of low yields -- i.e. "dumb money". Though it's wild speculation (as it were), I would not be surprised to see some targeted efforts to reverse price increases in both Vancouver and Toronto, markets that are annoyingly distorting the nation's house price figures.