When Vision Vancouver came to power in 2008, the median income in Vancouver was $52K1)Extrapolated from https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2018-housing-vancouver-annual-progress-report-and-data-book.pdf, while the rent for a two bedroom apartment was around $1,285 per month2)http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/PlanningPublications/ApartmentAverageRentsTwoBedroom.pdf, or 30 per cent of the income would be going towards rent.
After a decade under Vision Vancouver rule, the median income in Vancouver has increased by about a third to $70K3)Extrapolated from https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2018-housing-vancouver-annual-progress-report-and-data-book.pdf, but rents have doubled to $2,612 per month4)http://quantitativerhetoric.com/monthly-rental-report-june-2018.html, or 45 per cent of the income would be required to pay rent.
30 per cent is considered the upper limit of affordability in Canada5)https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/developing-and-renovating/develop-new-affordable-housing/programs-and-information/about-affordable-housing-in-canada, meaning that when Vision Vancouver first came to power, at least rental housing was still affordable.
The percentage of a household’s income going towards rent has increase by 50% under Vision Vancouver, making housing extremely unaffordable to middle class income earners.
Vision came to power promising to end homelessness and build affordable housing6)https://cityhallwatch.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/vision-vancouver-platform-2008-election.pdf. Vision has failed on both counts.
I hear from my fellow Vancouverites everyday about how they’re being thrown out onto the streets to make way for luxury condos that remain empty as safety deposit boxes in the sky. I hear from friends and neighbours about being renovicted as their landlords turned entire rental towers into illegal Airbnb hotels.
Vancouverites are fed up with a City Hall that kneels prostrate before the greedy few who profit off the citizen’s misery.
Developers like Westbank are brazenly yelling to the world “Vancouver’s becoming a safety deposit box for the global rich!” as a sales pitch with no fear of consequences.
Why would Westbank fear any consequences?
After all, Westbank’s owner Ian Gillespie is Mayor Gregor Robertson’s buddy and a Vision Vancouver bankroller.
Gillespie’s correct. Vancouver is becoming one giant resort for the global rich to gamble with our homes as their chips. Vancouver is also becoming a giant washing machine to launder the proceeds of transnational crime.
As the raging opioid crisis kills thousands of our citizens every year, the fentanyl dealers are making a killing speculating on our homes.
I have had privilege of mentoring promising young students at our universities and colleges. But many are forced to leave Vancouver upon graduation, forcing them away from where they were born and raised and away from their families. The salaries in Vancouver, even in the tech sector, are among the lowest in Canada. The cost of housing – whether you seek to buy or rent – is among the highest. Our citizens who contribute to the city while paying for taxes that pay for all the great public goods – I’m talking about our teachers, nurses, our friends in the trades and pretty much every other worker – are struggling to make ends meet.
The exodus of talent and the hollowing out of our neighbourhoods mean that local businesses are unable to stay afloat. The boarded up storefronts that line once busy thoroughfares in Vancouver seem straight out of a set of a post-apocalyptic dystopian movie.
And as local businesses are shutting shop, multinational chains are taking their place. Instead of hiring locals and paying them a living wage, these large corporations are importing indentured labour under the highly exploitative temporary foreign worker program.
What saddens me the most is that, I know Vancouver has the potential to be a global hub of commerce, innovation, science and art. Yet, we have now become world famous for the “Vancouver model” of money laundering.
The real estate industry – I’m talking about the developers, marketeers and realtors – have been the greatest beneficiaries of the fentanyl-fuelled housing crisis. The industry has poured millions of dollars into the coffers of both Vision Vancouver and NPA. In turn, the mayor and the council have stubbornly refused to take any meaningful action to stop our beloved city turning into a laundromat for all the world’s dirty money.
I, along with scores of other housing advocates, have spent countless hours presenting to City of Vancouver simple common sense solution to address the issues such as Airbnb licence abuse and presale flipping. But we feel that we’re hitting a brick wall at every turn. It’s blatantly obvious that the City Hall under Vision Vancouver leadership is protecting the interests of transnational criminals and the real estate industry instead of promoting the interests of the citizens.
It’s said that change must come from within. That’s why I’m running for Vancouver City Council at the upcoming elections with David Chen and the ProVancouver team.
When I’m elected, here are the five motions that I will table at Vancouver City Council within the first 100 days.
Motion 1: All future condominium pre-sales will be restricted to just local income taxpayers, by adding a local income taxpayer only condition to all projects approved by the council.
Motion 2: Completely ban on Airbnb, until such time the company learns the meaning of corporate citizenship and agrees to a new memorandum of understanding which ensures platform accountability.
Motion 3: Establish a startup accelerator which will finance and nurture young innovators, thereby enabling the city to be partners in their success.
Motion 4: Vancouver will set up a city-wide job seeker database and work with Service Canada to ensure that when businesses apply for temporary foreign worker permits, they’ll be matched with a qualified local worker first.
Motion 5: Establish a special Vancouver Police Department task force to investigate crime in the real estate industry and bring the perpetrators, who are currently acting with absolute impunity, to justice.
Dear friends, for too long we have seen successive municipal governments gut the heart and soul of our city by allowing proceeds of transnational crime to chase away our honest hardworking citizens. Our politicians are gleefully lining their pockets by betraying the ones who elected them, while promoting the interests of the industry that bankrolls them.
It’s time we said “Enough!”. It’s time to rise up and reclaim our City Hall, so that once again, it can serve the interests of the citizens instead of pandering to the whims of a greedy few.
The battle for Vancouver will be not be a walk in Stanley Park. The cancer of cronyism has metastasized in every organ of city government. But we’re Vancouverites. We’re resolute. We’re tenacious. We’re defiant in the face of even the greatest adversity.
We shall take back the City Hall and rebuild Vancouver as a city where innovation and hard work is rewarded, where families can thrive, and our bright young minds can fulfil their true potential.
Dare to dream, my friends, dare to dream of a free and prosperous Vancouver known world over as a great city shining bright on Canada’s western shores as a beacon of integrity in world riddled with corruption and greed.
And we shall not give up until every Vancouverite is liberated from the clutches of these transnational criminals who’ve laid siege on our city. The sounds of children’s laughter will once again ring through our playgrounds.
My speech at the City of Vancouver Public Hearing on rezoning applications for a condo project where I asked the Vancouver City Council to limit pre-sales to local income taxpayers.
Your council has been approving rezoning applications, just like the one before us, at a breakneck rate. Tens of thousands of new homes have been built and many more thousands are being built, yet, the local income taxpayers continue to be priced out of the local market.
Perhaps you are not familiar with who the local taxpayers are and why we matter.
We are your teachers, nurses, construction workers, police officers, software engineers and every other worker and small business owner contributes to make Vancouver a wonderful place for us, our families, and our neighbours. At the same time, we pay taxes to fund all the great public services we enjoy: schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, our emergency services, and every other service that makes our city such a desirable place to live in.
The median household income in City of Vancouver is 67K1)2017 estimate based on City of Vancouver data from 2015 http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2017-09-29-city-of-vancouver-2016-census-income-data-release.pdf. The median house price in the City of Vancouver is 1.2M2)http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/vancouver-2018-budget.pdf. At 18 times the median income, housing in Vancouver is now well out of reach of the local income taxpayer.
What’s causing this disconnect between local incomes and local house prices?
To find the answer, you only need to ask Mayor Robertson’s buddy and bankroller Ian Gillespie.
“Vancouver has become a safety deposit box for the global rich,” screams the headline of Westbank’s marketing article on its China website3)Original: http://www.westbankcorp.cn/media/141.html Archive:http://archive.is/jdxTy – a website that for a while was off limits to Canadians.
What Westbank is brazenly using as a marketing pitch is what experts have been telling us for decades: the world’s wealthy treat our housing market as a stock market, and our homes as commodities for speculation. And much of this money is dirty. Proceeds of transnational crime are also parked and laundered through our housing market.
The recent measures introduced to calm the housing market such as foreign buyer tax and speculation tax has driven speculators away from flipping existing homes to flipping pre-sales, as the new measures do not apply to pre-sales.
That’s where local income taxpayers only pre-sales policy comes in. By restricting all pre-sales to local income taxpayers who wish to occupy them, we can cut out toxic demand that’s making it impossible for our local income taxpayers to afford housing in Vancouver.
How it works
Every pre-sale buyer would be required to swear an affidavit confirming that they will:
a) using income that has been taxed locally to purchase the property
b) upon completion, will occupy the property as their primary residence
Strict enforcement and heavy fines will ensure compliance.
What I’m proposing is not too different to what your council has put forward as a “locals first” policy. Hawaii has had an “owner occupant” law since 1980.
Why did Hawaii promulgate such a law? In the words of Hawaii’s real estate commission’s chairperson4)http://files.hawaii.gov/dcca/reb/real_ed/re_bull2/re_bull_01_05/bull1305.pdf:
“Hawaii’s Owner-Occupant Law was promulgated in 1980 by our legislature in response to growing public concern at what was then viewed as rampant speculation by investors in the condominium presale market. Essentially, developers were offering investor buyers first priority to purchase units in their projects, resulting in resale prices unaffordable for residential buyers.”
Mayor and council, under your watch rampant toxic speculation has distorted the market, displacing our families and destroying our communities. The real estate industry, and the politicians who are in the industry’s payroll, and the financial industry who bankroll them, are raking in obscene profits at the expense working Vancouverites.
But it’s not too late to rescue our city. By imposing “local income taxpayers only” as a condition for passing rezoning applications such as the one in front of you today, you can reconnect local housing prices to local incomes.
We can reclaim Vancouver from the transnational criminals who hold sway over our city. All we need is our leadership to look after the interests of the local citizens ahead of the interests of the real estate industry.
Fentanyl dealers launder their profits through Vancouver’s real estate market1)https://globalnews.ca/news/4149818/vancouver-cautionary-tale-money-laundering-drugs/
The influx of proceeds of transnational crime causes Vancouver’s home prices to soar causing a frenzy of speculation.
This toxic demand then leads to eviction and homelessness.
Eviction and homeless has been linked to increases in addiction2)William Damon, Ryan McNeil, M -J Milloy, Ekaterina Nosova, Thomas Kerr, Kanna Hayashi; Residential eviction predicts initiation of or relapse into crystal methamphetamine use among people who inject drugs: a prospective cohort study, Journal of Public Health, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx187.
The increase in addiction then leads to increase in fentanyl sales
The increase in sales leads to large profits to the dealers
William Damon, Ryan McNeil, M -J Milloy, Ekaterina Nosova, Thomas Kerr, Kanna Hayashi; Residential eviction predicts initiation of or relapse into crystal methamphetamine use among people who inject drugs: a prospective cohort study, Journal of Public Health, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx187
Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister,
Please don’t hand over $14B of our tax dollars to Westbank’s Ian Gillespie
I’m dismayed and distressed to hear that the Government of Canada is considering handing $14 billion in taxpayer dollars to real estate developer Ian Gillespie and his company Westbank to build “affordable housing” through an outfit called Creative Housing. Giving Ian Gillespie tax dollars to fix the housing crisis would be like giving a fentanyl dealer public money to buy naloxone kits to sell back to his clients.
I urge you not to pour a supertanker load of salt in the deep wounds Mr. Gillespie has inflicted on Vancouverites by even giving a penny of our hard earned tax money to him.
If you’ve forgotten what Mr. Gillespie, your friend and fundraiser, has done to earn the dubious distinction as being an architect of the housing crisis, let me jog your memory:
Westbank pitches Vancouver’s hot real estate market to buyers in China with the “Vancouver’s becoming a safety deposit box for the global rich!” as the selling point. “In recent years, the boom in Vancouver’s properties has attracted the global rich,” Westbank’s tells the world. “It took only two years for Vancouver’s housing prices to double.”1)Original: http://www.westbankcorp.cn/media/141.html Archive:http://archive.is/jdxTy
Westbank has openly declared that it only cares about building for the Chinese market. “ But right now I have a rule when we talk about projects if the Chinese market doesn’t want it, I have no interest in it.” Westbank’s Director of Marketing Michael Braun said on the Westbank website2)Original: http://westbankcorp.com/michael-braun archive: http://archive.is/cwqJ8.
Mr. Gillespie provides an “asset management” programme for absentee owners of his condominium projects, where property managers perform such tasks as running water through the taps and regularly switching on appliances should an apartment lie vacant for an extended period.3)http://www.scmp.com/property/international/article/1534655/vancouver-developer-targets-worlds-wealthy-his-52-storey
Westbank sponsored a Yacht gala in China even as a judge ordered Mr. Gillespie’s other company to pay $200,000 in unpaid bills to a local contractor4)http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/06/2018BCSC0600.htm.
Mr. Gillespie himself doesn’t offer any apologies for the sky high prices of his condos. “I don’t set the prices. It is what the market will bear,” Gillespie told reporters5)https://www.thestar.com/business/2007/02/10/king_of_highprice_condos_coming_to_town.html.
Instead of rewarding Mr. Gillespie for fueling the housing crisis, I implore you to take all action necessary to stop him and other like him from doing further devastating lives and livelihoods of Vancouverites. You have the duty, as the leader of our nation, to stop Mr. Gillespie from turning Vancouver into a grotesque caricature of his deformed phallic symbols: glistening on the outside, empty on the inside.
I’m running for Vancouver City Council with ProVancouver to free Vancouver from global greed and make the City Hall work for citizens again. Please support me by voting for me and making sure you friends also vote for me. I’m the second from last on your ballot.
City of Vancouver recently regulated Airbnb and other short term rentals. Hosts are required to obtain a licence from the city and platforms are required to deactivate hosts without a valid licence. Recent news reports indicate that hosts have been getting away with fake numbers as there’s currently no mechanism for platforms to validate licence number.
Automated Short Term Rental Accommodation Licence Integrity Checking System (ASTRALICS ) is a proposed application programming interface (API) intended for City of Vancouver to publish, which Airbnb can use to validate licence numbers.
Upon a host entering the licence number, Airbnb sends licence number, street number, street name, and unit number (in the case of strata units) to ASTRALICS.
ASTRALICS checks the City of Vancouver licence database to see if an entry matching the request data exists in the system.
If an entry is found, ASTRALICS responds with “valid”. Airbnb will accept the licence number
If an entry is not found, ASTRALICS responds with “invalid”. Airbnb will reject the licence number.
I have created a fully functional ASTRALICS prototype as 65-line Azure function in Java. It can be easily ported to other languages.
I have created an example licence database as follows:
If you access ASTRALICS API with a valid licence number, as in the request below, you will get “valid” as the response.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced last week with much fanfare that the City of Vancouver has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbnb to help the city crackdown on illegal short term rentals.
I got a hold of the full text of the MOU1)https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fhQagqnZxXHX2DGmAysApgO5xYN0OSaa/view?usp=sharing through a Freedom of Information request. Buried inside the five pages of text is a clause indemnifying Airbnb from prosecution for the what people do on the platform.
1.7 Airbnb shall not be held responsible under any provision of the City’s License By-law No. 4450 for information provided by the Host, which may be incomplete or inaccurate. Airbnb shall not be held responsible for any infraction, violation or non-compliance by Hosts under any provision of the City’s Zoning By-law No. 3575.
It gets even worse. By signing the MOU, the city has agreed that Airbnb is under no obligation to remove offending listings.
1.11 The City is responsible for verifying the correctness and validity of STRA Licence numbers and exemptions posted by Hosts, and seeking enforcement against Hosts under its by-laws, Airbnb will not be responsible for removing from its platform any listings that have incorrect registration numbers or are otherwise invalid. Similarly, the City may pursue enforcement action against Hosts that have otherwise violated provisions of any City bylaws. Airbnb shall not be responsible for removing listings from its platform that belong to such Hosts that have violated provisions of City bylaws.
At a time when other cities are fining Airbnb upto a million dollars per infraction2)https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/24/barcelona-fine-airbnb-homeaway600000-offering-illegal-accommodation/, Mayor Robertson and the City’s General Manager of Licensing Kaye Krishna are letting Airbnb off the hook for any violations, and voluntarily giving up the power to force Airbnb to take any meaningful action.
Once again, Robertson and Krishna have betrayed the citizens of Vancouver by putting the interests of a predatory multinational corporation over those of the city’s residents.
Shame on you, Mr. Robertson. Shame on your, Ms. Krishna. Instead of trying to solve the housing crisis, you’ve just poured a tanker-load of fuel on it by crippling the city’s power to regulate short term rentals.
Here’s what the report actually says about foreign buyers (emphasis mine):
A persistent challenge in understanding demand for housing in Canada is the extent of foreign investment. We have supported Statistics Canada in their efforts to bring better data to bear on this question while filling short-term data gaps ourselves. Ontario and British Columbia have also started collecting data on the flow of foreign investment. It remains difficult to quantify the impact of foreign investment, however. The comprehensive data released by Statistics Canada in late 2017 suggest that non-residents account for 3.4 per cent of residential properties in Toronto, and 4.9 per cent in Vancouver. Non-resident owners, however, tend to own proportionately more condominium apartments than singledetached housing. As discussed below, however, prices of single-detached housing have increased proportionately more than those of condominium apartments.
While official data on the stock and flow of foreign investment appear low, it is possible that upsurges of foreign investment at market peaks could alter expectations of domestic homebuyers on the price they should pay for housing, and encourage domestic speculators. Our new Homebuyers Motivation Survey shows that 52 per cent of the buyers who purchased a home recently in Toronto and Vancouver believed that foreign buyers were having an influence on home prices in those centres. Actions taken by the Provinces to curtail foreign investment could therefore have been timely to reduce excessive short-term spikes in house prices.
Dr. Tansey is being intellectually dishonest by claiming that the CMHC study ”demonstrates that the effect of foreign investors is small compared to other factors.” CMHC report admits that it’s difficult to gauge the impact, and suggests that even if the foreign buyer numbers are low, foreign buyers could be punching above their weight by altering the expectations of local buyers. CMHC even concludes that the BC’s and Ontario’s foreign buyer tax may have been a timely measure to cool down housing prices.
The effect of regulation and zoning constraints in the housings sector is six times larger than the effect of speculators, according to [sic] and the largest group of property investors who by[sic] to rent is actually older domestic owners who are seeking financial returns in a low interest rate environment.
It’s not entirely clearly immediately whom Dr. Tansey is citing as the source for the claim that red tape is the main reason for the housing crisis. The answer is found on page 16:
A more detailed bottom-up analysis by property and tax experts Burgess Cawley Sullivan suggested that taxes and development fees represent $220,256 to the cost of an $840,000 apartment and $337,582 of the cost of a $1.4m three bedroom apartment.
As the citation for the “more detailed bottom-up analysis by property and tax experts Burgess Cawley Sullivan,” Dr. Tansey has provided a link to a single-page “report” published by the development industry lobby group Urban Development Institute2)GOVERNMENT ADDICTION TO TAXING REAL ESTATE titled GOVERNMENT ADDICTION TO TAXING REAL ESTATE.
That’s two red flags in one: A single-page “study” with a biased title with no citations whatsoever published by a lobby group. Dr. Tansey would not risk his academic reputation on such a flimsy document, so, I thought that surely he must have thoroughly vetted the “study” for its veracity.
The UDI study purports to depict the breakdown of taxes and other government fees associated with a “Typical Cambie Corridor Assembly Project”. The authors state that the the Community Amenity Contribution(CAC) is $115 per square foot of buildable area of net additional density. They don’t cite a sources for this figure, and, it soon becomes apparent why.
In sum, the central conclusion in Dr. Tansey’s study is based on a single-page “study” with a biased title with no citations whatsoever published by a lobby group that uses made up numbers. In the words of Carl Sagan “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Dr. Tansey’s extraordinary claim is backed by demonstrably false evidence. We can safely conclude Dr. Tansey’s study is nothing but junk science.
A kind reader has pointed out to me that there’s another glaring error in the UDI “study”. Empty Homes Tax applies to neither “property undergoing redevelopment” nor “under review for redevelopment of vacant land.”4)Will your home be taxed?
Simon Fraser University Professor Andrey Pavlov recently produced a graph with the bold claim that “City of Vancouver currently has the highest property taxes in Canada”. The graph is based on multiplying MLS Detached Benchmark prices by the tax rate1)Prof. Pavlov’s methodology.
Cities don’t use MLS Detached Benchmark prices to calculate property taxes. Cities use assessed values from official assessment bodies. I spent the evening digging up the official assessment values for some of the cities in Prof. Pavlov’s graph. And here’s my graph.
My conclusion, based on official published data, is that Prof Pavlov’s claim “City of Vancouver currently has the highest property taxes in Canada” is inaccurate.