Monday, May 20, 2013

Asians Play Global Monopoly in Vancouver, B.C.

Development in Vancouver
Vancouver is leaning too heavily on the city’s developers for cash contributions to build community amenities such as libraries and parks.

That charge comes from the Pacific branch of Urban Development Institute, an organization representing the local real estate development industry.

The group asserts it’s time to end the practice of negotiating Community Amenity Contributions on a project-by-project basis. It wants a transparent, standardized system put in place.

When he was appointed Vancouver’s planning manager two years ago, Brian Jackson spoke in favour of UDI’s position, stating: “I think the one-by-one negotiation of [amenity contributions] is problematic for the development community, and it is something I would like to pursue in correcting in this city.”

Alas, two years later, the system is changing only slowly. Jackson said he’s committed to change, slowly increasing the number of rezoning applications subject to fixed-rate contributions. “Though there will always be sites where negotiation is more appropriate,” he adds.

He calls it “a work in progress.”

Amenity contributions have been paid by developers for years in exchange for building-density bonuses awarded by the municipality.

Here’s how the system works: When Vancouver rezones a developer’s land to award it greater density, boosting profit for the developer because they can build more residential units — it turns around and negotiates with the developer for a payment of 70 to 80 per cent of a designated portion of his expected additional profit, to be used for community amenities.

In 2011, the industry paid $180 million in contributions; in 2012, $68 million.

The money finances daycares, community centres, heritage preservation, transit services, libraries, parks, and cultural facilities that otherwise either would not get built, or have to be financed by taxpayers.

On its website, the city acknowledges that amenity contribution “policies vary across the city and are applied differently, depending on planning and land use change.” Only in select parts of Vancouver is a flat-rate amenity contribution charged.

Developers don’t object to making the contributions, but complain the system whereby the charges are established is a lengthy, complex, behind-closed-doors process that slows development and causes higher housing costs.

Even the slightest suspicion these contributions add to housing cost in an already unaffordable city is controversial.

Explains institute CEO Anne McMullin: “Some municipalities have set their contribution levels too high, which has either stalled development and/or negatively impacted housing prices.”

And, she adds, the “complex, negotiated approach causes processing delays, increased holding costs and a high level of risk.”

Jackson’s 2012 remarks showed considerable sympathy for the developers’ perspective: “We ask our developers to do a lot. One of the things they have asked for is certainty. I think there should be a standardized approach to (amenity contributions).”

It’s worth noting, a developer’s amenity contributions get negotiated after his land acquisition has been made. This obviously makes it difficult for developers to have all the fiscal facts at hand at the point when they’re purchasing land from a seller.

Developers also must pay the contributions up front, before they’ve built their building and reaped their profit.

The uncertainty created for the developer discourages smaller, worse financed builders, restricting the market place to an oligarchy of big developers.

Many believe the developers simply pass along the costs of the amenity contributions to their residential buyers, boosting housing costs.

Reduced competition in the developer marketplace also leads ultimately to higher pricing for buyers.

Amenity contributions, from the community’s viewpoint, clearly serve a good purpose. It’s smart to have clear, transparent and efficient pricing for the geese laying the golden eggs.

A rising number of wealthy Chinese are moving to the US and Europe because their once-favourite destination, Canada, has been scaling back entry, migration agents say.
Hong Kong-based immigration consultants are also trying to provide would-be migrants with alternative programmes after the scrapping of Canada's investor visa scheme.
Wang Pin, a Chinese-born Canadian, said he had to close his immigration consultancies in Toronto, Canada's largest city, and Shandong province last year when business shrank.
"My firm has done badly over the past two years after applications to the Immigrant Investor Programme were frozen in 2012," said Wang. "For Canada, the advantage of attracting migrants is being lost as most Chinese want to move to other countries. They have to wait for an uncertain time if they choose Canada."
The Canadian government on Tuesday officially terminated the controversial investor visa scheme, which has allowed Chinese millionaires to emigrate since 1986. About 45,000 mainland applications in the waiting list for visas will no longer be processed and applicants will have their fees refunded.
"I think I made a good choice," said Hu Xiaofeng, a Zhejiang banker who obtained permanent residency in the US last year through an investment programme.
"I wanted to move to Canada, but my agent told me the process was more complicated and the chances of obtaining Canadian residency status were slim."
US has been promoting its investor scheme in China and allows foreigners to invest a minimum of US$500,000 in exchange for a green card.
At the same time, European countries have become more popular destinations by providing incentives to attract investment from rich Chinese after the global financial crisis in 2008.
But the US investor immigrant scheme, known as the EB-5 visa, may be the biggest immediate beneficiary of Chinese investors who had previously been flocking to Canada.
"It will be a windfall for the US," said immigration lawyer.
He said: "The programme, which had previously been met with a yawn because of onerous eligibility requirements, has suddenly taken off."
More than 80 per cent of the 6,500 applications filed for the EB-5 visa in the current financial year were from mainland investors, he added.
Civitas Capital Group CEO Daniel Healy said the EB-5 scheme was virtually "unknown" just three years ago.
But he added: "Demand for permanent residency in the US through investment is exceeding supply now ... this fiscal year is likely to be the first where the programme will max its quota."
Other beneficiaries of the Canadian scheme's closure include Portugal, where non-EU citizens can obtain "golden residence permits" for just €1 million (HK$10.6 million) in capital investment or €500,000 in any type of real estate.
Greece offers five-year residency visas to anyone investing €250,000 in real estate, while Cyprus offers residency visas for €300,000. Australia is another popular alternative to Canada, especially after Canberra started a programme in 2012 that gives permanent residency to anyone investing A$5 million (HK$35 million). At least 65 per cent of Australian "significant investor" visas had been granted to mainlanders and 91 per cent of the 545 applicants for the permits since the scheme began just over a year ago were Chinese nationals, according to figures from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The Caribbean island-state of St Kitts and Nevis is also expected to benefit - citizenship and a passport can be obtained, without physical presence, for a "donation" of US$250,000 or real estate investment of US$400,000.
Ma Xiaoxue , an immigration consultant at Well Trend in Beijing, said the company had been consistently advising clients over the past two years to consider countries other than Canada.
"Chinese people love to move to Canada. They want to be part of the welfare system that Canada is famous for, and to enjoy the outstanding scenery," Ma said.
"But they certainly have more options now that Canada's immigration policies are not so welcoming."
Another agent, Sherry Li, of the Toronto-based Henry Global Consulting Group, said the company switched its focus from Canada to the US last year.
"For a long time the company derived most of its income from sending Chinese to Canada, but when that become uneconomic the company started looking for other ways," Li said.
But immigration consultant Mary Chan Siu-yee, of Hong Kong-based Rothe International Canada, said the US EB-5 visa programme may prove too high a risk for many immigrant families, who would face deportation if a business were to fail.
Chan suggested that Canada-focused business would be slightly affected, but added: "The trend to emigrate to Canada will not change.
"Everyone knows that when the investor scheme reopens, it will be much more expensive. But money is not a big factor for many applicants."

Transpacific Travel:

Vancouver -- Flights from China have increased

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Vancouver - always Top 'x' in Something

KEYWORDS: Political Stability, Freehold Ownership, World-Class Airport - to facilitate appointment elsewhere within 20 hours...

  • Outdoor Activities | Fresh Air
  • Experienced global workforce
  • Time Zone

~ 23% of all condos are vacant

if you are a Citizen of the World

Pink Canopy by Ben Oliver

Photo courtesy of SCMP

So where would your rather be?   Fresh air or dismal weather fluctuating between hot and cold?   Not to mention the awful pollution.   

We explore some of these issues in this blog about citizens of the world with an Asian bent.

Where else can you go for a walk in the City perimeters and have such solitude and opportunity to take in nature?

Photo courtesy of Leanne Chan

Photo courtesy of Leanne Chan

It is the perfect place to practise yoga to get self and soul in alignment.
And just a plane ride away to Asia.

This photo from recent walk around The Peak in Hong Kong. 
You choose.   Where can one think clear on global strategies?    
Golf Clubs in Vancouver



Could there be a connection between this statistic and the fact that they like to 'park capital' in safe, freehold, limited land, Asia-friendly Vancouver?


Excluding the city’s West End neighbourhood – roughly 52 per cent of condo units are occupied by owners — while 48 per cent are owned by investors who live at another address. --HUFFINGTON POST

Anyone who has walked around Coal Harbour at night already knows that empty, investor-owned condos are the antithesis of community.

If the data released during a panel discussion at Simon Fraser University revealed anything, it’s that empty condos point to a city of speculators and investors. And it doesn’t matter if those investors are from Mainland China, Iran or Ladner.

They’re pushing up property prices by using Vancouver real estate to store their money as if it were one giant “safety deposit box,” to quote one of the panelists.

“The issue is speculation; that was the heart of my presentation,” says Andy Yan, an urban planner and statistics junkie who works for Bing Thom Architects. Mr. Yan gave a presentation that showed a substantial number of condos in downtown Vancouver are empty, and his new report made headlines.

The issue isn’t just foreign investment. It’s the fact that so many developments are investor-owned – and with the revelation that about 25 per cent of them are empty in Coal Harbour, we know a lot of them are not being used as rental stock.

...there are cranes dotting the skyline throughout the Lower Mainland. Thousands of new units are under way. The towers continue to go up. So, there’s confidence in new construction.

A wave of wealthy immigrants from mainland China is transforming Vancouver in Canada, but the influx has seen property prices soar and most are reluctant to give up Chinese citizenship.    >>  SMCP

Life is good for Wei Fuqiang and Chen Qianhong.

Sitting on their 10-metre cruiser in Vancouver's exclusive Coal Harbour marina, the married mechanical engineers recount an unlikely trajectory from wartime China, to Tsinghua University at the height of the Cultural Revolution, to elite careers building particle accelerators in Europe at a time when few of their countrymen were even allowed to leave China.

Little about this remarkable couple is typical - yet as mainlanders they now typify a vast wave of immigration that is rapidly transforming Vancouver.

Wei, 70, and Chen, 68, retired to the west Canadian city from their most recent home, Switzerland, in 2010. Chen said: "They are very different, Europe and Canada. Canada has opened its arms to all people. It's very multicultural. But in Europe, they are always pushing you, they try to integrate you into their culture.

"In Canada, they respect your background, you feel you are thepadrone," she said, lapsing into Italian for "master of the house". "You are not anymore a guest. This is really your home."

The scale and impact of the mainland Chinese influx to Vancouver was laid bare this month in a report for Canada's immigration department, titled "A New Residential Order?"

Author Daniel Hiebert, a social geographer with the University of British Columbia (UBC), projected how mainland migration would fuel the creation of "a social geography entirely new to Canada". Ethnic Chinese numbers in the city of 2.2 million were set to double to 800,000 by 2031, about a quarter of the projected total population, with the city increasingly divided into racial enclaves, and white residents becoming a minority group.

In Richmond, a city of 200,000 in greater Vancouver, mainland Chinese migration has already helped create what is probably the first majority-Chinese city outside Asia.

The mainland Chinese wave has fuelled a property boom that makes Vancouver the second least affordable city in the world - behind only Hong Kong.

There have also been major social shifts, with families divided between a wife and children in Vancouver and a husband working in China. The phenomenon of returnees and part-time residents means thousands of houses and flats are vacant.

Hiebert said there had been relatively little focus on the issue, given the scale of the city's unfolding Chinese transformation. "Are we fully reflective on these changes? No, I don't think we are," he said "But I think Canadians, more maybe than anyone else, have decided to trust the government and immigration policy to decide immigration issues. In Vancouver, we have come to a consensus that a global cosmopolitan society is what we are going to be."

There are both similarities and contrasts to the pre-handover wave of Hong Kong migration to Vancouver in the 1980s and 1990s, Hiebert said.

According to immigration data, mainland Chinese arrivals in Vancouver outstripped those from Hong Kong by 7,872 to 286 in 2012. But even this 27-to-one disparity does not adequately portray the scale of the demographic shift that is taking place, because while the mainlander population is soaring in Vancouver, the number of Hong Kong immigrants actually present in the city has been falling sharply.

Photo courtesy of Hubert Kang

Mainlander numbers in Vancouver increased 88 per cent to 137,245 between 1996 and 2006, according to the most recent full census data. But Hong Kong immigrants present in the city fell 12 per cent, to 75,780, with nearly all of those losses occurring in the latter five years.

Although 18,890 new Hong Kong immigrants arrived in Vancouver in the decade to 2006, the fall in the number of such immigrants present in the city suggests that 29,325 left Vancouver in the same period.  Overall, Hongkongers seem to be leaving Vancouver by the thousands, just as mainlanders are arriving by the tens of thousands.

Canada does not keep records on foreign ownership, but a Landcor Data analysis of all 164 homes sold for more than C$3 million (HK$23 million) in Vancouver's core Westside neighbourhood in 2010 showed that 74 per cent were sold to buyers whose names were mainland Chinese spelling variants and who did not have any Western legal name.

"Lots of buyers, the wife and children will stay in Vancouver, but the husband will still live and work in China."

That common scenario reflects the difference between Hong Kong and mainland government attitudes towards Canadian citizenship.

David Ley, author of the book Millionaire Migrants about modern East Asian migration patterns, said China's prohibition on dual citizenship made it less attractive for a mainland Chinese migrant than for a Hongkonger to go "all the way" and seek Canadian citizenship, a process he termed "passport insurance".

"For a mainland Chinese, if they want to go back to China with a Canadian passport, they are at a disadvantage, unlike people from Hong Kong who are able to hold both [Canadian citizenship and Hong Kong permanent residency]," Ley said. "The stakes are much higher. If they ... get a Canadian passport then they are taking a much bigger risk."

Anecdotal evidence suggests mainland Chinese wives commonly stay in Vancouver to provide a citizenship toehold for their absentee husbands.

Afternoon Delight by Ben Oliver
Ley, also of UBC, added: "Around 2000 there was an almost complete transition in migration, switching to the PRC instead of Hong Kong and Taiwan. In other words, everyone [from Hong Kong or Taiwan] who wanted a passport got one."

Another key difference between the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese waves is their potential scale and duration. "We know for sure there is very deep wealth in the mainland, whose holders want to diversify. [A recent study suggests] that 20 per cent of those very rich wanted to come to Canada," Ley said. "We are talking about a substantial body of wealth that won't run out in the way that Hong Kong [migration] did. Over the years we are looking at an ongoing presence, depending on a variety of factors."

Mainlanders outnumbered Hongkongers in Vancouver some time between the 1996 and 2001 censuses. In that period there were 85,756 mainland arrivals to the city. But that only reflected the speed with which Canada's immigration authorities could process their applications. There is a vast backlog.

When asked whether she saw any downside to the mainland Chinese influx, real estate agent Lau agreed that local first-home buyers were struggling. But she added: "I see a lot of people here who bought in West Vancouver a long time ago. They can sell for a lot of money and move somewhere else. It's very good for them."

Hiebert said that when the Globe and Mail newspaper used the alarmist term "white flight" to describe what was happening in Vancouver's suburbs "they got hammered for it". "I'd use a different term to white flight," Hiebert said with a laugh. "I'd call it 'cashing in'."

There have been some tensions, in addition to grumbling about property prices. In Richmond, where the proliferation of Chinese-only business signage has upset some long-time residents, the city council was presented with a 1,000-name petition demanding an English component to all signage. "It [Chinese-only signage] has got progressively more noticeable," said Richmond resident Kerry Starchuk, who helped organise the petition. Richmond's council rejected the petition's demands.

Photo courtesy of Hubert Kang

Back in Coal Harbour, Wei said he saw no problem with the influx of his countrymen. "I'm happy if they come. These are not low-level people, they are very high-level in China, they are very educated."

After almost 30 years in Europe, Wei, one of nine children, said he once hoped to retire in China. "I wanted to come back. In China we have many friends, many relatives, and the food is good too. With our money, China would be very comfortable."

Chen shook her head: "He is crazy! Not many would agree with him." Chen wants to apply for Canadian citizenship - "Chinese should involve themselves more in the community," she said - although her husband, reluctant to give up Chinese citizenship, does not.

They agree, however, that their new city was the right choice. With their son, daughter-in-law and three-year-old granddaughter living nearby, Vancouver is their home. "Now, this is perfect," said Wei, waving an arm over the marina. "I never want to have regrets."

VANCOUVER SUN    2012 Feb 27

80% Sales to PRC

2012 August 18

BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER      2012 March 12

GLOBE & MAIL   2012 June 5



VANCOUVER SUN    March 2012





    GST:  The new GST/PST tax regime took effect on April 1st,  2013.


    All new residential construction will be taxable at the 5% rate rather than the previous 12%.    

    For more details, see the government's GST/HST info sheet.

    PROPERTY PURCHASE TAX |  ' Stamp Duty'
    The Province of B.C.'s Property Transfer Tax, which will remain the same: 1% on the first $200,000; 2% on the balance.
National Geographic 1992 - Vancouver's long history with Asia


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