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The decline of Vancouver (sofard.tumblr.com)
165 points by mathattack on Mar 22, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments

I live in Vancouver, and have for many years.. as such, I hope I can try and help inform an otherwise misinformed set of posts. I suspect they're off-base largely because a lot has changed since some of the authors of other posts have lived here.

First, there are many technology companies in Vancouver. Hootsuite, Bench, A Thinking Ape, Clio, Slack, Amazon.. these are just the ones that came to mind. I know authoritatively that each and every single one is looking for senior sales, marketing, engineering and product talent.

Here is a slightly more comprehensive list: http://www.techvibes.com/company-directory/vancouver/tag/sta...

Is the tech ecosystem as big as in SF? No.. but where else is it?

Second, yes.. it is an incredibly expensive place to live. Part of this is due to the large number of homes which are owned by foreigners and are vacant. I'm not aware of a concrete way of measuring this.. but anecdotally, I suspect it's close to 30-40% of the downtown residential core. This is definitely a worrisome issue, but too complex to cover in just a few lines of this post.

Third, be careful not to compare (downtown) Vancouver with it's suburbs. The downtown core is one of the few places in the world where people live and work in the same area... there are a multitude of activities. As many as you'd expect of a city of this size.

Finally, commutes range from 5-30 minutes (and that's going to cover people who walk, bike and take transit).

Vancouver is consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in the world.. but there will definitely need to be changes if we want that to continue to be the case in the long term.

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver and graduated from UBC, now working in Seattle and regularly commute to SF (once a month) and almost twice a month to Vancouver. I've been observing this for quite a while and try to put my finger on where the problem is for Vancouver. Have been trying to talk to people up and down the coast who are similar as well to understand more.

It's a complex comparison because:

- SF has crazy amount of capital flowing around, people are earning crazy $, but there's also high cost of living and tax rate

- Seattle is not as crazy as SF, but still has plenty of high paying engineers. Cost of living is quickly rising. Locally, it's starting to become a problem in some areas like Capitol Hill, like SF's Mission area. However, WA don't have personal income tax. So while on paper we don't make more than we do in SF. The general consensus from those that made the move north from SF says they end up keeping more.

- Vancouver doesn't have crazy tech capital. But it's got a really nice environment. Has public health care whereas in the States we have to account for health care cost. Generally American tech jobs provide health care with co-pay/deductible options but it's still thousands out of pocket before the 100% insurance coverage kicks in.

The Canadian brain drain thing has always happened since early 2000. I think the biggest problem with Vancouver is that there isn't enough venture capital flowing in. In many places where there doesn't exist an already established tech scene, like Detroit, the government has a lot of subsidies for companies to move there. However, there doesn't seem to be enough or any for companies that want to move to Vancouver. In fact, many of our subsidies are starting to expire, and that's why many gaming and SFX studios are shutting down. Without the much needed capitals, start-ups have harder time competing with Seattle and SF which offer comparable/better climate and surrounding with much better pay. Often time when I hear a Vancouver company pitch it's by saying how nice and active the city is. Sure, the city is nice but is it worth the difference in pay? To me, at least not at this point. Not at least with the money I am making I can afford to come back whenever, or fly down to SF for a few days. Especially not with the pay I am making after tax in BC, and have to pay for housing and transportation.

Fair description. I would say the quality of life will easily be higher in Vancouver depending on what you value, despite the slightly lower wages. Healthcare is much more affordable than the States, the public transportation blows Seattle out of the water. Housing is much more affordable than SF and on par with Seattle. Skiing, biking, and outdoors in Van is closer and cheaper.

Easily as diverse as Seattle, just different. Startup community is more vibrant than Seattle, more personal than SF -- but if you want a cushy job at a large tech firm, Vancouver is not the one.

The Vancouver up-and-coming is where it's at. Tons of my friends and colleagues are moving from all over the world to take advantage on the rise up.

Invoke, Highline.vc, WavefrontAC, Spring.is, Launch Academy, are accelerators powering startup names you all are familiar with. Not to mention the Canadian government basically throwing money at tech through grants, tax rebates, and mentorship programs because they recognize it will carry the economy no matter what happens with natural resources. Not sure what subsidies you think are expiring.

I get offers from SF regularly but it's not worth it. My friends there tend to get overworked and leave after burnout. Vancouver is a place to set down roots -- Canadians know how to enjoy the weekend and each other's company outside of work events.

Background: Living in Seattle for a decade, founded a startup in Vancouver last year, have many friends and past work in SF.

i stand to be corrected on the subsidies part! Did some more research this morning. It seems that the reports are generally focused more on how other cities are providing more subsidies than Vancouver, rather than Vancouver stopped providing subsidies.

Definitely agree Vancouver is awesome to live in. To be perfectly honest, I'd love to move back to Vancouver. It's a very nice city, nice enough that I'd want to visit twice a month! I have to be honest, for the right job and at the right time in my life, I wouldn't mind taking a slight pay cut to enjoy the life style here. I'd love to still enjoy a place of my own though. :(

Funny last weekend I was in SF Mission and a friend recently bought a new condo there. $600K, and small just like the Vancouver ones. However our sentiment is that SF can support that kind of market because the price is mostly backed by the crazy tech money. Unlike Vancouver where the housing price don't seem to be backed by any economic boom.

At the end of the day, I guess money still talks. Especially if one tried to raise a family or do anything significant in life like owning a home.

I definitely think Vancouver has great transportation... As long as you live close to a Skytrain station. Many new developments in Vancouver outside of DT seem to emphasize on walking distance to the Skytrain. Some are even built on top of or next to the Skytrain stations, like the ones around the Cambie Canada Line! Otherwise, I don't think Vancouver's bus system is any particularly better or worse. Also, with some of our light link rails and street car projects coming online in the next 24 months, the situation will definitely improve in Seattle. There is already planning into extending the LLR to the Eastside to Redmond/Bellevue areas.

Vancouver's transportation is really good. Just the other day this article came out comparing all the cities in the west and Vancouver came out on top in terms of percentage of commuters who take transit. 20% vs SF's 15%. http://www.biv.com/article/2015/3/who-takes-transit-work-met...

Thanks for the article, read through it. True that Vancouver may have higher public transit ridership, but what they neglect to mention is that different cities may have solved the public transit problem in a different way.

First off, many major tech companies SF (and to some extent in Seattle) offer private buses. Automatically, these people are no longer counted by the study. In a city like SF where there is a huge Google/Facebook/Adobe/Company XYZ population, they all offer buses or shuttles from urban areas to Palo Alto, Cupertino, and even within other places in SF. Nonetheless, almost 100% of the people I talk to that lives in SF either doesn't own a car or owns a car but almost never drives it because their companies offer alternative transportations. They also don't ride the BART or Muni or CalTrain much because of Uber/Lyft.

Secondly, places like NYC, SF and Seattle have a big ride sharing culture. Obvious Uber and Lyft are prevalent around the city with their staches' and U's. Recent stats in NYC indicates that there are now more Uber drivers than taxi drivers. These ride sharing economy definitely takes the ridership out of public transit. In fact, on my recent trip to SF I decided to take Uber to my door instead of the normal BART because they cost similar except I don't have to get off at a BART station and transfer somehow. Compare that to Vancouver, where Uber and Lyft are outlawed, with the city even going to extra step to make sure they don't even get a start over existing taxi services, it's definitely going to push more people to public transit.

Also, I don't think this article or study is even non-partisan at all because of the upcoming city-wide transit referendum. Honestly, I am taking this with a grain of salt.

What's wrong with the bus system in Vancouver? It's extensive and the buses are nice and run on schedule. And you can hop on the Skytrain after a bus ride without having to pay an additional fare.

> I think the biggest problem with Vancouver is that there isn't enough venture capital flowing in.

To be honest the same can be said for London. Despite an abundance of capital available, investors this side of the Atlantic are far more conservative than in the US.

I don't know what it is in the US that makes investors take a punt on risky ventures, in the UK they just don't. If you're not making revenue in 12 months then they don't want to know.

IMHO low interest rate can drive a lot of people to making insane decision up and down the financial food chain. It's essentially "free" money, except the principle has to be paid back.

Much of this has been the seed of the 2008/2009 financial crisis. Funny how crisis in one industry turned out to be a boon for another.

Hear hear!

Here's my comment to back up dennispi post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9245915

As per my post (the TL;DR summary here...): Intermediate Engineer 90k or more, Senior 110k or more. Better health insurance/coverage. For example: child-birth cost almost nothing (VIP room costs $100 ish for 2-3 days after corp. insurance cover the rest, regular room is covered by basic health insurance I think).

>Finally, commutes range from 5-30 minutes (and that's going to cover people who walk, bike and take transit).

I'd like put that in bold (as stated in my comment as well). This is different compare to the States where Highway is the One True Way :). (I used to live in LA before settling down in Vancouver).

So, the salary is still half SF, and 2 hrs away w/ TN Seattle pays %90 SF. And cheaper housing.

LA is highway culture, SF the city is transit culture.

I've been away from SF for a couple years now but I have a hard time believing that the average programmer is being paid ~200k. The salaries the GP listed seem about 80% of SF salaries to me.

Transit culture? Is that the idiotic 'I love sitting 3 hours a day in a bus going up and down 101 from my home to my employer in the South Bay and back'?

Seriously, the public transit is only great in San Francisco if you're only comparing it to the rest of California.

There are employers inside SF itself. If you live in suburbs, you need a car, just like Vancouver. There are many people who just live & work in SF and use transit the majority of the time.

SF salary is $180k intermediate/$220k senior?

Remember the currency conversion. 1 CAD = 0.8 USD.

I was living in Vancouver until I moved to Waterloo for University, and will be graduating in a few months. It seems like everyone here is comparing Vancouver with US tech hubs like Seattle and SF, when there's a much more comparable target: Toronto.

Of course, this is anecdotal, but for every one of my 6 co-op terms in Waterloo, I always made finding a job in Vancouver one of my highest priorities, but in the end I always ended up choosing a job in Toronto over the Vancouver ones because the quality and selection of interesting places to work is just so vastly different ever single time.

Once you factor in the costs of living, it's ridiculously difficult for a young professional working in tech to justify choosing Vancouver over Toronto (and trust me, I tried, Vancouver is still by far my ideal city to live in), let alone SF/Seattle where the salary disparity comes into the equation.

A friend of mine who works for blackberry in mississauga feels otherwise about TO, he said the highest paying tech jobs are mostly in financial industry.

You're definitely right that housing price is affordable in TO but there are people who still want to go back and prefer Vancouver over TO. They don't mind to pay more for the quality of living in Vancouver.

I'm not sure about high-paying jobs (during my search, I've found the average salary to be in the same ballpark for Vancouver vs Toronto). But in terms of sheer number of interesting companies and opportunities, I've found Toronto to be superior by a large margin.

If you take a look at the AngelList jobs board (https://angel.co/salaries), you can see triple the number of postings in Toronto vs Vancouver, and more than triple of those that pay 60k+. This is by no means completely representative, but I believe it's good indication of a much more vibrant startup scene, and my job search experience so far seems to confirm this (despite being biased towards Vancouver due to personal preference).

> The downtown core is one of the few places in the world where people live and work in the same area...

> commutes range from 5-30 minutes (and that's going to cover people who walk, bike and take transit).

So, in general, it is like a classical European city, where the streets are even full of life after the end of the workday? If that’s true, than this is actually amazing.

And creates the new question: Why did it work in vancouver, but not in so many other cities on the american continent.

Vancouver is surrounded on three sides by the sea, snow-capped mountains, and the U.S. border. Copious amounts of prime real estate are also set aside for Stanley Park, UBC, and the airport. There's some sprawl toward the South (right up to the border) and East (inland), but the downtown core itself is physically incapable of getting any bigger than it was 100 years ago.

It's somewhat like downtown San Francisco, except Vancouver is even smaller. No point in downtown Vancouver is more than 1 mile from water. This helps keep everything within walking distance.

Compare this to, say, Los Angeles, where there's not much to stop the city from expanding in every direction.

obi-nine you appear to be hellbanned - by default no one can see your posts.

> due to the large number of homes which are owned by foreigners and are vacant. I'm not aware of a concrete way of measuring this.. but anecdotally, I suspect it's close to 30-40% of the downtown residential core.

There have been studies out of UBC that estimate 30%+ van can't condos in the downtown area by using anonymize do BCHydro electricity usage data. As far as I know this number has been increasing. This has gone on for so long that the city, province, and federal government (all three are implicated) are between a rock and a hard place. Canada has one of the highest levels of personal debt-to-income ratios because property prices are overvalued. Anything they do now to try to correct for affordability, and bring down property values would result in a large number of defaults for domestic owners, and big hit to the economy.

Your comment "30%+ van can't condos in the downtown area" doesn't make any grammatical sense. Are you saying that 30% are vacant, or 30% are occupied?

Anyway, here is the study I think you were talking about, which says that 42% of Vancouver condos are vacant, compared to 3-6% in other areas of Metro Vancouver:


I assume "vac can't" is a mobile miscorrection for "vacant".

> Anything they do now to try to correct for affordability, and bring down property values would result in a large number of defaults for domestic owners, and big hit to the economy.

Structural changes are always painful in the short term. It's the long term total return value that counts.

Also, domestic owners in downtown vancouver would be just fine. If the place is worth over 600k (which they all are) then they are already/mostly rich enough to absorb the hit. Note that the larger the price tag of the home then the larger the hit will be, but on that end it's filled with people who really can afford that hit. The smaller the price tag of home then it's also a much smaller hit taken and the odds are then extremely high for them to regain that value back over time.

>the large number of homes which are owned by foreigners and are vacant. I'm not aware of a concrete way of measuring this.

I saw an interview on CBC about this and the person interviewed simply said "Look up." He pointed to row after row of full condominium buildings with only two or three lights on in each building.

I do the same test in my fully occupied 40 unit townhouse in Vancouver at night. At any given time, most of the lights are out.

I just wish the media didn't try to spread so much FUD just to sell views.

Why would you look if you know it's full and you live in it?

>Finally, commutes range from 5-30 minutes (and that's going to cover people who walk, bike and take transit).

Ha, ha, ha, a 30-minute commute would be luxurious. Richmond to VGH for 9:00 takes 45 minutes by car. Coming in from Surrey, Langley, or Maple Ridge I'm sure is worse, and good luck getting to UBC or downtown in less than an hour from these places.

Transit in Vancouver is a joke, and that 45-minute drive takes more than an hour by Skytrain+bus.

>Ha, ha, ha, a 30-minute commute would be luxurious.

I have to agree. My commute is 45 minutes, 65 if you follow the speed limit, and significantly better than many of my coworkers. I would really love a sub 30 commute, but not sure I want to pay an extra $300-450 a month for it. It also takes 1.5 hours by bus+skytrain+bus.

I would really love for the 5-30 minute commute to be true, but it just isn't.

So don't compare to SF, compare to Seattle.

I've been going to Vancouver regularly (about once a year) since the mid 90s. As the return of Hong Kong to China approached, the influx of Chinese investment spiked. It started in Vancouver, people who had been in the better parts of Vancouver and were of retirement age sold and moved out (basically the first wave) and those being bought out moved to places like the Okanogan, etc.

Then, single story buildings in Kits, for example, gave way to three+ story multi-use (commercial downstairs, residential upstairs) units. Some of this is still happening around the city. Where older 2-3 story condo buildings exist, some were vacated for building some more towers.

Funny this story shows up now. It is something that has been happening for almost 20 years.

It is also amazing to me, given the beauty, the availability of technology, and the desirability, Vancouver never has become a tech hub. There were a few startups circa 2000-ish that made waves, some were sham puffed up deals like those lead by Dick Hardt (sxip). There has traditionally been a lot of media (popular for hollywood filming), gaming, and smaller startups, but nothing that served as an anchor.

Vancouver and BC are probably at the top of my favorite places on the west coast, but the issues it has in technology, building an industry, and being affordable go back in time well before this simple blog post.

edit: typos

Vancouver and BC have a close knit, vibrant tech community with a long history. I've never been short of a great work in Vancouver since 1990.

Price Waterhouse Cooper has a "BC Techmap" project: http://www.pwc.com/ca/en/technology-industry/bc-techmap.jhtm...

This is a big poster you can order.

Unfortunately, the preview site for it is defunct. The map traces the linage of tech companies in BC back to the 1940's.

Here is someone's shot of the 2003 version:


If your idea of a tech scene is that there must be a mushrooming of "like Facebook, but for dogs" type startups, then indeed, no, Van is not a hotbed for that kind of thing.

My take on vibrant is visibly growing. I don't mean in an SF or Palo Alto sense - but more startups and other companies opening shop, employing locals and attracting talent. Meet ups, conferences, the like.

I don't rule out Vancouver has companies and a tech scene, but it has potential (and has had) for more. I think of Austin, Raliegh-Durham or Berlin as examples of comparison than SF or Palo Alto.

I don't think that the locals in Vancouver have problems getting jobs; they do get absorbed into the industry. (I'm thinking of, say, new graduates from programs at from UBC, SFU, Capilano University, BCIT, ...).

Almost every company I've worked for in a quarter century has participated in the co-op program; we've had bright interns every year, and they all went on to work either for the same company or elsewhere.

Many people are satisfied with that, and have other hobbies outside of work other than going to meets with other programmers. Or those who have programming as a hobby would rather be actually doing that.

Also, people have significant others and families. Geek get-togethers are mostly for single people who don't have a significant other that isn't also a geek.

In the early/mid 2000's Vancouver had a healthy games industry. Not sure about now. But your point is valid.

Vancouver doesn't really have any technology industry that's in a virtuous cycle yet.

Google / Microsoft / others are building office complexes in Richmond, Surrey, and other places close to the border because of "US immigration" limitations, but those aren't going to help build industry.

Until the mid 2000s, I was looking for a viable company / excuse to move to Vancouver (meet the required points/immigration first bar), but never felt like tech was taking off there.

I was involved in the identity arena from the late 90s to mid/late 2000s, the aware of sxip (Dick's company) and had me again exploring the vancouver scene. Funding and major players then were a handful of people and not growing. Not healthy for long term growth -- at least for the risk assessment I was running personally.

Microsoft's latest development isn't even a real office. It's just a temporary stopover for non-Canadians to get them enough time working at MS to apply for an L-1 to go to Redmond. The people working there will not have immigrant status in Canada and couldn't stay even if they wanted to. The contribution to the Vancouver economy will be only from custodial or clerical support jobs.


I disagree,because of this: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/tech-news/microsof...

Imageworks is taking 2 floors in the same building, Amazon is already in the Telus building at the 555 Robson Atrium and have leased numerous floors in the new Telus Garden tower which will be open momentarily: http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2013/10/amazon-vancouver-office-t...

Big companies coming in with their money does help. Vancouver loses out on loads of people to SF and Seattle.

I used to live around Vancouver, I really like it there. I'm not going to choose that over Seattle where I can make more money.

With TN visas being a pretty painless path towards working in the states why not move down?

Of course if I can work for good money at a good company in Vancovuer then I'd stay. Didn't really seem like an option.

re: my point...there are "body shops" for big companies, but no anchor development in the province.

I'd love to see something take hold. I'd love to move there, but the infrastructure and base for something more isn't there.

So....you had bad experiences in Vancouver a decade ago so its tech community is not vibrant today??

Facebook / Microsoft is here too but they hire almost no Canadians, most are foreigners, until they can get the green light to work in the States.

Amazon is the only one hiring locally but I often find that they just advertise positions but never really end up hiring

Amazon does hire local talents. I know a few people there.

I know someone there, too, but I have also been scouted a few times by folks looking to have me move from Toronto to Vancouver (something I’m not willing to do for a lot of reasons).

Quebec province was heavily subsidising the video game industry back then (and I believe still is though to a lesser degree) which might have not played in Vancouver's favour.

Quebec and other provincial subsidies played a role, but in general the AAA console game business model that fuelled the Vancouver games industry in the early 2000s has been weakened severely. The middle of the market is gone leaving only a tiny handful of ultra high budget games, and a low end of indies in the PC space.

There are a lot of talented games or ex-games people in Vancouver, a lot of them interested in indie games, but because games is not a repeatable business model and it is incredibly hard to predict what will be successful, there's no real VC environment and it's hard to find the cash to start up a studio. The age of big publishers like Sony and Microsoft dumping cash on people for exclusives seems over.

I know a few games guys that have gotten out altogether and gone to work at non-games companies, but in general I'm not sure if there's a great deal of interest from non-game companies in hiring ex-games people. Unfortunately games is weird highly specialized skill set.

EA has a very large studio there that produces the FIFA video game franchise among other things.

If you look at the ruling party's donor list it shouldn't come as a surprise.


Oh wait, corporate contributions are only a tiny percentage! Wow, this party is funded by The People!

Now scroll all the way down (previous to last page) to see corporate donors. Observe every single developer in Vancouver being on that list donating tens of thousands of dollars, more than any other corporation.

Notice how that doesn't stack up with the pie chart you just saw. Now scroll back to the top of the page to and observe that the contribution-bysource piechart is by number of contributions rather than by aggregate value.

This should tell you enough.

Which party is this?

Vision Vancouver

I've lived in Vancouver. There are really only three industries: (dodgy) junior mining, retail, and real estate. Property is bought by absentee owners who take supply out of the market, drive up prices, but do not contribute to the economy. The city is more expensive than NY without the amenities (except the outdoors), culture, or opportunity. The city should be Canada's powerhouse but it's turned into a high price vacation area without tourism.

Property is bought by absentee owners who take supply out of the market, drive up prices, but do not contribute to the economy.

I've heard that said many times without any hard stats behind it. How many absentee purchasers would it take to drive prices up? What about the effects of low interest rates and everyone desiring to get in the market before it gets hotter? Everyone seems to be an expert on this, and I highly doubt that.

How do you expect there to be stats about this? You don't have to register somewhere that you're an absentee owner.

So what's the motivation to buying property you don't live in. Are they renting it out? The OP made it sound like many units are vacant. Are they buying and holding hoping to sell later for more?

Normally a boom in high-end housing is good for local trades (plumbers, electicians, carpenters, painters, decorators, etc) as the first thing most upper-tier home buyers do when they buy a place is renovate, remodel, or at least redecorate.

The motivation is often wanting to move assets to a location out-of-reach for the Chinese government to potentially seize.

So these homes are vacant? From my experience in the Bay Area, these homes house their wives and small children; or their adult children. When you think about it this makes more sense than leaving them empty considering China's environment pollution.

Some of the owners move their families over. But they often own more than one property, so the unused ones are completely vacant.

I still don't understand why they don't want the rent money on those properties.

It's possible that they are so wealthy that their income from other sources far outswamps whatever rent they would accrue from the properties, so it's not worth the inconvenience of renting them out. Remember, many of these properties are purchased outright (no loan) and held as long term investments.

Because they also flip these properties on regular basis (anywhere from 3 to 24 months) and it's significantly harder to do that with people living in.

It's an inside job thing. These people basically trade within themselves to prop up the property price.

This happens in Beijing a lot: many chinese see property as a store of value like gold or something like stock that appreciates and don't even bothering renting it out. I live in a nice beijing complex that is only around 60% full, all apartments are sold of course.

A good real estate crash should clear out the speculators.

In China the middle class would get screwed too much. They might just inflate to spread the pain around making everyone losers.

Recently it was revealed that Vancouver police actively works with Chinese secret service of some sort to track down the dirty money and send them back to China where they are promised humane treatment but as soon as they land in China they are executed.

/Property is bought by absentee owners who take supply out of the market, drive up prices, but do not contribute to the economy./

This has been thoroughly debunked many times. Real estate agents are hiring helicopters filled with asian actors to drive fear. The actual number is something like 3% foreign buyers.

Now, if you look at our mortgage rates - the lowest ever in history with the loosest requirements ever, you'll see why prices have skyrocketed.

We're following the US housing bubble, but about 7 years late.

This very article linked addresses the 3% figure.

A 2011 study by Landcor Data showed that 74 per cent of luxury purchases in Richmond and Vancouver’s west side were by buyers with mainland Chinese names with no western variant.

Not surprising, given that Richmond is 55% Chinese[0]. West side Vancouver is probably around the same.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond,_British_Columbia#Demo...

So it hinges on Chinese people westernizing their last name to ensure they are counted as Canadian? Plus this is only counting luxury properties. Sadly it's really important now WHICH set of rich people own those properties.

Canada does not have any statute which says you need an Anglo last name to be counted as a Canadian.

I do not have such a name, and, by golly, I'm a citizen of this little patch of dirt.

I suspect that it would certain that such a renaming requirement would violate something in the Canadian Constitution and its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


In Vancouver it's well known that the overwhelming majority of Chinese people who emigrate here have English variants to their name. If anything the study underestimates the figure as many non-Canadian Chinese (particularly in HK) do have western variants.

To your last point (assuming I'm reading your last sentence correctly). I don't think its a race/nationalism thing - I think it's more of a concern because people don't want properties being used as investment vehicles for foreign money and driving up the price for people whose primary use of houses in the area is shelter.

From Vancouver, love the city but had to leave. Almost all of my friends left too. Cost of living was one thing but the quality of life just wasn't there for the suburban commuters and the city always felt depressed. There was no heart beat when walking the streets.

I lived there for a couple of years, and couldn't agree more. There's a lot of awesome people making their best efforts to counter it, but really it's a dead city.

I remember realizing that all the cafes closed around 6 or 7 in the downtown area, then finding out it was because of lack of demand. A city of 2.5 million people that can't keep a coffee shop open past dinner - coming from Toronto it was bizarre.

I also remember the absolutely awful experience of trying to find an appartment to rent. There were so many people competing that we had to line up and "audition" - I ended up getting to know a lot of my fellow contestants by name because you had to show up to practically every single Craigslist listing if you were to have half a chance. Then finally getting a place and seeing that half of apartments in the towers around us were empty.

Vancouver in the 80's was apparently one the hippest places in Canada, definitely not any more.

I've lived in various places in Canada, and now live on mid Vancouver Island, which IMO has the best overall quality of life anywhere in Canada (if not the world). You get the same amazing scenery and outdoor activities, but with reasonable property prices and no traffic or urban sprawl. I live in a luxury, new 1200sqft townhome which I rent for $1200/month, I can walk into town or to the sea, and I'm 15 mins from Vancouver by floatplane (well, about an hour once you add the drive to Harbour Air, etc).

I've lived in Vancouver since 2007 and have rented 3 places within the city and 2 in the suburbs (Richmond and Maple Ridge). I was only turned down from getting the place I wanted once, and that was purely because I called back an hour after I said I would respond and the landlady had given it to another person.

Here is a link to one my favorite sites about housing in Vancouver. Take the quiz:



Yeah, the real solution is to knock down the single family homes on the CoV peninsula (Which is only about 100 square kilometers) and put up multi-family dwellings. It doesn't really matter one iota what a single family home costs, they're land-inefficient. How much would a single family home in Manhattan cost?

The trick is to look at the neighbouring houses!

The article reminds me of a real estate agent in Miami, who on the radio called the apartments out there "apartment-shaped financial instruments." (In Vancouver, apparently, they are detached homes.) This seems to be a recurring theme in certain cities, e.g., Vancouver, San Francisco, London, New York.

The difference between Vancouver and SF/London/NYC is that it has no accompanying income boom to make the real estate prices affordable for working people. There's no significant financial or tech industry. Nobody gets rich from working in Vancouver. In fact, Vancouver tech jobs generally pay _less_ than other Canadian cities despite the greatly higher cost of living.

Vancouver firms can offer less pay because there aren't many alternatives when it comes to Canadian cities for a tech worker. Let's see...Toronto, Montreal, Waterloo and Calgary. And the winter weather east of the Rockies is horrible.

I agree, as the only Canadian city west of the Rockies Vancouver employers seem to think they don't need to compete with Toronto/Montreal/Calgary pay. And to a certain extent they're right. But with more and more US firms hiring Canadians on TN visas, the new competition is Seattle/SF.


Somehow the people of Vancouver think they can avoid the fate of those other cities.

Especially when they say, 'oh but our banking and financial system is sound' without any knowledge of the subject.

As a student in Vancouver this worries me. It think it's about time either the city or metro Vancouver started putting forward some absentee homeowner legislation. We have a lot of talented young people that are leaving to places like Calgary and Seattle because the Vancouver doesn't have the opportunities to support them.

That time was 10 years ago. The government has no reason to put such legislation in place, because it lives off taxes on empty buildings and because it would crash the f#ck out of RE market if they turn their back on Chinese money and it starts flowing out.

There are policies that can be gradually brought in that wouldn't crash the market.

Firstly, you make it more expensive to own an empty home. In my home city in the UK, landlords are no longer able to claim council tax discounts for empty properties after 6 months. If your home is vacant. You pay up.

Secondly, you incentivise rentals through tax breaks to landlords.

Finally, you have to push prices down. After all, rising prices is why foreigners own these assets in the first place.

- Stop foreign ownership of more than 50% of a building. That way, projects still get funded and locals get housing.

- Increase stamp duty taxes on foreigners purchasing homes

- Use the money you gain in tax revenue to fund cheaper real estate building for locals

- Any other real estate can only be bought by foreigners if they are locally resident in BC for a year or more

What is really outstanding with all of this though is that Canadians cannot own property in Hong Kong (lease only, lots of Government owned real estate) and cannot own property in the PRC without meeting residency requirements. Why should Canada treat people differently?

That being said I don't think any of this is possible with the likes of NAFTA.

When I was finishing school, there was also lot of fear post tech bubble, and we were probably mid housing runup (although I didn't know it yet). I guess my only advice is, don't count on other people to fix problems. If you focus on your own skills - always be coding, always be learning - I think you'll do fine here or elsewhere.

We are not Seattle, nor SF, nor NY, nor London. Each city offers their own mix of good, bad, and ugly, and you need to determine which city provides the right mix for you. I'm from Ontario, but that right mix is Vancouver for me right now.

My parents immigrated to Canada and worked their asses off during a recession with a 20% interest rate on their mortgage. I'm sure the media said the sky was falling then as well. I always remembered how hard they had to work, so I learned that we cannot take things for granted. Internet commenters complaining about kids half my age with lambos? Not my problem - I have more constructive things to do.

If you are willing to fight to the good fight and enter politics to make positive change for the amazing city we all want it to be, I will vote for you!

> If you focus on your own skills - always be coding, always be learning - I think you'll do fine here or elsewhere.

People who just code and learn don't automatically get work. You need a network to get work. Some places make that much harder to acquire. It's good if you're doing well, but we are talking about people potentially wasting years of life in places which make it fundamentally harder for them because they were poorly advised that learning will somehow get you constant work no matter where you are.

Sounds like Vancouver could use a little Georgism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

Or as a simpler, more politically palatable approximation, set up a pied-à-terre property tax for residential properties above a certain value that are lived in for less than three months per year.

Couldn't the absentee owners just rent the properties out to dodge that?

But that would increase the number of rental properties, theoretically drive down rents, and then possibly even decrease housing prices.


Experientially, Vancouver has high rental prices, and a shortage of rental properties on the lower end. I don't think the numbers reported by the site you linked to accurately reflect the reality of living in a city like Vancouver.

Counter evidence: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/vancouver-tops-list-of-most-... And http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2014/02/vancouver-expensive-city-...

Vancouver has high rental prices

Compared to most other cities, yes.

Compared to the cost to buy identical properties, Vancouver's rental prices are extraordinarily low. I'm paying $1700/month to rent a two-bedroom condo which would sell for around $500k; after strata fees and property taxes, my landlord is making less money than if he had bought Government of Canada bonds.

If you look at detached houses, the situation is even worse; for $2000/month you can rent a house which would cost over a million dollars to buy.

This is effectively the difference in market clearing functions between cash-only and government-underwritten credit-based markets. For a variety of historical reasons, governments around the world have enacted an infrastructure of government-backed credit and near-"exorbitant privilege"-level asset treatments (in many areas like regulatory, legislative, judicial, financial...the reach is quite broad) for residential real estate.

I have contrary views regarding this differential treatment, which I consider excessively improvident in our current era. But the views are strongly unpopular in the mainstream and the mainstream views are embedded into the very warp and weft of most people's conception of wealth and income, so I shy away from discussing my views in depth (and HN is not the forum to explore the attending issues).

However, in much of the discussion surrounding Piketty's recent work [1], there is increasing acknowledgement of the role the growth in housing asset pricing (interpreted as "wealth" in most venues) is playing in the increasing returns to capital-holders. Whether those returns are ever-increasing or only currently-increasing depends upon whether you think Piketty or Rognlie is more persuasive, respectively.

This somewhat parallels our industry's own discussions around the productive or dubious nature and wealth-building or wealth-destroying trend of so much enormous human talent and inventiveness devoted to what proponents call new forms of capital and economics, and detractors call frivolous ("cat memes"). This discussion is far from over. There's a deeper, more philosophically-oriented set of decisions that our polities around the globe will have to grapple with in the unfolding years ahead, regarding the nature of wealth, income, and money.

[1] http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/06/thomas-p...

That is really low for Vancouver. I don't know anyone in a 1 bedroom in the city centre that pays ~$1400 CAD. The lowest I've heard from my co-workers is ~$1650 CAD, going all the way up to ~$2100.

Even 2100 CAD ($1670 USD) is about half of San Francisco 1 bedroom rent. His post is still correct in terms of ratios. http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2015/03/03/mapping_the_median_...

There are lots of well paid jobs in SF. Not so in Vancouver.

Yeah, but you make 50-100% more in SF.

All the money flooding into Vancouver is the results of billions and billions of dollars flooding out the U.S trade deficit, hitting China, and boomeranging back into hard assets all over the world.

Funny how the globalization stick has two ends, isn't it? Who'd a thunk it!

Insightful comment buried again. +1

Because it doesn't add much value. Most/all western countries have a trade deficit, especially with China, these days. So what? Are we going to propose that the solution to fixing Vancouver is "achieve US trade surplus" and "stop rich Chinese people existing"

Viewing the issue from a more macro perspective is way less appreciated here. Micro and macro perspectives are both essential to have a deeper understanding before there is some kind of methodology to unify every dimension (the possibility for this happening is really low in social science, and economics is considered as social science by some). It's just my personal point of view and my own preference. Also, it's not easy to propose a nice solution without taking the systemic limit into account. People are prone to enjoy debating on symptoms instead digging deeper to find those causes. I myself find many comments in the lower half are more valuable. The byproduct of HN's comments seems a better fit for me. However, without the existence of major upvoted comments, there would be no such byproduct.

According to Wikipedia, Vancouver only has 600k people. Shouldn't people expect the city to grow to a few million people over the next 100 years? More people are moving to cities, after all. I'd think that with proper urban planning, there's enough space to grow. Urban planning means more mass transit, of course. That's not something that we do very well in the western hemisphere. Even NYC could be a lot better. People are still trying to jam several thousand buses into Manhattan every day.


If you count the main suburbs of Vancouver, there are already over 2 million people.

The transit system in Metro Vancouver moves over 400k people a day.

Then the city should be able to absorb the increased demand in housing/apartments?

SF refuses to allow for more housing and mass transit isn't extensive enough so you are required to live in certain areas.

And Manhattan is an island so that's why you get outrageous pricing there. People want to live close to where they work and there's a certain commute time that they are willing to put up with. If people could live 60 miles away from Manhattan in any direction, and reach it within 30 minutes, for example, then real estate prices would decrease.

It's worth noting that in Vancouver and the suburbs of Metro Vancouver developers are constantly building lots of buildings all the time. It's completely unlike SF. There's cranes everywhere.

I think there's more to the issue than it simply being a very basic supply and demand problem. The sort of supply desired (the cheap sort!) isn't arriving. It seems that even the experts and academics struggle to arrive at a coherent explanation of the problem, let alone a solution so I certainly don't have one.

However other contributing factors that are frequently brought up that seem like they could have an effect are:

* Difficult to build "cheap" buildings in Vancouver deriving from various city hall rules and low flexibility in what forms of housing one can build.

* No Federal tax support for low income housing or apartments results in developers only building luxury condo towers.

* No political interest from both Province or City in any changes in legislation or city zoning which could possibly lower people's property values.

As well the most incredibly expensive real estate is in single family detached housing, which Vancouver (city proper) can never make more of.

The geography of Vancouver prevents expansion. Rivers and inlets cut across all the major regions and it's almost impossible to add more mass transit.

People are moving further and further out but the commutes are pretty outrageous. I live in a suburb that is a 45 minute bus commute to the city and nearly every house in my neighborhood is worth a million dollars.

Vancouver is already extremely dense and its geography prevents much more expansion. Try to find a good quality topo map of the Greater Vancouver area and you'll understand why your comment doesn't ring as being true.

The same story could be told about a number of Western cities.

Perth, Australia - for example - is another city that has gone through massively over-inflated property prices as, over the last few decades, foreign investors come to the place, see its beauty, and - because they have the context of other major, metropolitan wasteland-cities - heavily invest.

To me this really means that those of us who live in the privileged band of Western civilization really need to get out of our little bubbles and go and see how the rest of the world really lives. If you're in some safe, comfortable city on the edge of it all - go pierce the heart of human civilization, and see what life is like in Hong Kong, Shanghai, or any other major metropolis in Europe for example. Being ignorant of the teeming masses is how these over-inflated bubbles occur in the first place - if you think your lifestyle is great, beware the attention it will gain from those who have managed to accrue substantial wealth, in lesser circumstances ... complacency and decadence will always be exploited by those who have run the gauntlet of human civilization.

Surprised there was no mention of Hong Kong as Vancouver is often dubbed Hongcouver and Hong Kong has to deal with the same kind of problems right now (that is, the younger generation can't afford to live there).

> the younger generation can't afford to live there

So live somewhere else. I don't really get the problem, seems like normal market forces to me. Canada is a huge country.

If only humans were robots without emotional attachments, family or a desire for happiness, applying market solutions to problems would be so easy! Being priced out of the city you grew up in because foreign investors are looking for a place to hide money safely is not good for a city in the long run, or its inhabitants. Perhaps more stringent foreign ownership rules could be applied and produces an effect that didn't require the next generation to pack up and leave for greener pastures.

Canada is huge but the nice livable places are few and far between.

Seattle is objectively a much better place to live right now if you can. It has cheaper housing (at least for now), more and higher-paying jobs, especially in tech. But Vancouver is a beautiful city and has better Asian food. Every once in a while my wife and I drive up there on the weekend to walk around the city and eat some fantastic Chinese food. We fantasize about living in Vancouver, but in the end it just doesn't make any economic sense.

This article could have been written replacing the words Canada and Vancouver by resp. Australia and Sydney. It is exactly the same thing happening in Aus. Australia introduced that significant investor visa program which the facts show that it is about 90% of PRC people coming in with their clean or not so clean money. Investment, in the context of this visa scheme, is mostly about property speculation. Property prices in Sydney are very high and locals and migrants who work here cannot afford. The government introduced negative gearing to help to inflate that property bubble. As in Canada, Australia agreed to co operate with the Chinese gov to help track those Chinese who run away with all their dirty money, which almost always end up in property. I am renting now and have been inspecting units for a year as I wanted to buy. At any inspection I went, other people walking in were mostly PRC. not australian asians. you can tell from their strong accent. Whenever I made an offer, above the asking price, there was a chinese to outbid by like 10% the price of the unit. You sometimes hear sick conversations between the potential buyer and the agent like once that young PRC girl who asked the agent : "I already have 2 units here and am planning to buy another one; if I buy this one can I still get the first home owner grant ?" (I really heard that I'm not joking). Few times, at the end of an inspection, when I would ask questions to the agent, he would answer me : "I have a call scheduled tonight with the owner in china, I will ask him". if they really want to track the dirty money pouring in Australia, it's not that hard. You see houses that sell for $3 million whereas they sold for $1.5 million only exactly one year earlier. In Sydney inner west, I can see every day luxury cars driven by young chinese kids. Seriously the guy does not even have pubic hair yet and he's driving a custom bentley. There are parts of the city that do not necessarily look luxurious : no luxury goods shops around, average condition roads, very few shops and restaurants, though you feel like you are in monaco when you look at the cars around.

I don't know what can be done about it. Wish for a serious financial crash in china, or wish for the politics to really mean what they say, or wish for a lot more crime (which would encourage those people to look elsewhere to spend their money), or find ways to move to smaller towns where all that dirty money has not been yet and property is still available ?

Vancouver seems to get better (at least from my perspective) in terms of tech-hub and while my opinions seem to pain pretty picture of Vancouver, I think some of the concern are legit when it comes to the inflated real estate price. Anyhow, here we go:

Amazon plans to hire 1000 people for their new office. Despite the claim that they only do interview but not hiring I think that's misinformed. They _are_ hiring people. I know a few people who work there and have a friend who's friend was hired there not too long ago. They have private invite sessions once in a while too.

Microsoft said that they're hiring 400 people for their new Vancouver HQ. They also had a private invite sessions around the end of 2014. The recruiter stated that they're hiring 120 people within a year, and more to come. Sounds like they will do this in phase.

Body shop like Facebook and Twitter pointed out up-front that they only do training and only hire fresh-grad to be shipped to the USA.

Salesforce is ACTIVELY hiring in Vancouver. They poached my co-worker last year. I've been hearing that their offer is in the range of 120-140k for intermediate engineer.

90k is the minimum current rate for intermediate engineer for mid-size to BigCo (Salesforce being the outlier). Small-to-mid offers around 70k to high 80k with laid-back/better work-life balance and frequent to work from home. Source: recruiters, I know some of them and have maintain good relationship.

SauceLabs is recruiting with 4 current "seed" employees for their Vancouver branch.

I know someone tried to recruit a Vancouver-based OpenDNS employee where the requested salary is between $110k-120k. I can only guess OpenDNS paid their employee here probably around 90k or more.

A Thinking Ape (YC backed) is here. Mozilla has a medium-sized presence here. The list goes on. So whether the pay is low, I'd say that's relative. I don't know the compensation for the rest of the USA cities except SF and Seattle.

Seattle is nice but damn... the food, the outdoor, the culture, the diversity are below Vancouver (I spent a short stint in MS). The commute is also bad.

Also don't forget we have basic health insurance and probably "saner" government.

Let's go over the real-estate a little bit:

I've been scouting and am invited to a few "VIP sessions" for apartments and townhouses (the kind of estate that none of these rich Chinese would probably buy since it's below their range; they only buy fancy houses no?) hold by the developers. Most of the sessions I went to usually managed to sell 100% of their "phase one" development and 70% of their "phase two" development. Somehow there seems to be an influx of buyers and NO, they're not dominated by mainland Chinese people.

A friend of mine recently purchased a townhouse (3 floors, 3br, 2.5 bath, super small backyard, 1400sq ft finished, brand-new, new appliances, etc) for $599k in the suburb, very close to the train station (10 mins walk), 20 minutes via train to Downtown core. This location is quite ideal too: near the biggest mall in Vancouver, relatively good suburban area, close to food and entertainments.

My manager came from Down Under (Oz) and said that at least he can afford an apartment in the downtown area that does not blow a huge hole on his wallet compare to Sydney (NSW).

Rent is definitely cheaper compare to the big cities (Sydney, NYC, SF, LA): 1400-1500 1br in downtown area, a wee bit more expensive in the posh-downtown area or near the Coal Harbour. 1200 for decent size 1-br apartment near the biggest Mall in GVRD (Greater Vancouver District).

Do keep in mind that the public transportation is pretty good compare to most cities I've ever been to (except Singapore, HK, NYC, or London). The buses and trains are well maintained despite a few occasional service hiccups. I've taken BART in SF before, smelly, dingy, weird people, and slightly more complex fare calculation. I've taken Sydney (NSW) train before, still manual (operated by human), not frequent, more expensive.

Vancouver also has an "express" train (different path/route than the main stream) that connects the downtown core and some of the further suburbs. The city keeps improving and expanding the train services further east to cover more area. A few years ago the city just wraps up the line that connects the airport to the end of the Downtown core where the Cruise sails, where the startup/hip/US-branch companies have offices. The path takes about 30 minutes trip.

And whenever someone said "40 minutes driving" from downtown core, that's 40 minutes via REGULAR street/road not Highway like in the USA. In the States, the default is almost always "Highway" if you're coming from the 'burbs. In Vancouver, it's just a normal street which means distance wise is not that far.

Crime rate is very low around here.

> One problem was that its figures excluded the tens of thousands of Canadians (30-50% of whom estimated to buy property in Vancouver) who bought their residency through the recently defunct Immigrant Investor Program.

Hold on a second.

I think it's pretty rude, and bordering on xenophobic, that the author wants to call these folks foreigners. Especially if you turn it around and say outright what he's suggesting: People who gained their citizenship through the Immigrant Investor program aren't _real_ citizens like us.

Immigrants _are_ Canadians... even folks who used the Immigrant Investor Program.

The article does touch on this:

> According to our Immigration Minister “There is little evidence that immigrant investors as a class are maintaining ties to Canada or making a positive economic contribution to the country”. Indeed, there is an estimated 300,000 – 400,000 Canadians living in China, the majority of whom are ethnic Chinese.

If someone who started life as a foreigner, with no ties to Canada at all, comes along and essentially buys Canadian citizenship, then continues living in China, do they stop being a foreigner? Whilst they are indisputably Canadian citizens, i would say they aren't Canadian in any other sense, and so yes, they are still foreign. They aren't even immigrants, as they never immigrated!

Whereas, of course, someone who moves to Canada and makes a life there is a real immigrant, and becomes a real Canadian. I don't think the author of the article would dispute that.

Kinda doubling down on the whole "they're not real canadians" thing aren't ya?

Here's an interesting study from U.Ottawa in 2010: http://sciencessociales.uottawa.ca/grei-rgei/fra/documents/W...

Of interest: 1986-2010 only 130,000 individuals gained citizenship via the immigrant investor program. Of those about 32,000 were the primary applicant, and 97,000 were family members (on average 3... so wife + 2 kids).

This bit is also pretty telling:

> Contrary to popular belief, a majority of respondents (82%) reside in Canada on average between 10 and 12 months a year (Table 4). In addition, another 11% of respondents indicated that they stay in Canada for 7 to 9 months a year. The only official and comparable figures on this topic come from the province of Quebec, where about half of all immigrant investors who landed in Canada since 2003 still lived in the country in 2007 (Figure 12). Our survey results give a higher estimate on a national basis of the proportion of immigrant investors who reside permanently in Canada compared with statistics from the province of Quebec

Trusting the Conservatives to tell the truth about immigration issues is foolish. The minister's comments are directly refuted by this study. Especially his "or making a positive economic impact"... here's a quote from the start of the study:

> The Program clearly constitutes a positive economic initiative for Canada. Considering that about 2,500 immigrant investor families enter Canada each year, this means that the Program provides an annual economic contribution of $1.9 to $2 billion to the Canadian economy

". Vancouver has experienced no commensurate economic or income boom"

Then it's not a boom, it's a bubble. It's that simple

The money is flowing into the housing market from outside, so the bubble is free to keep growing until that flow gets cutoff.

Funny, this was on /r/vancouver not too long ago.

There's so many things broken with Vancouver but nobody is willing to confront these out of fear of displeasing the wrong crowd that backs them into power.

In other major cities, there's very good protection against foreign ownership of properties to prevent the exact situation vancouver is in.

In other major cities, there's a strong and large economy to grow with the cities cost of living. Vancouver's wages have remained unchanged for a few decades, barely adjusting for inflation.

Having grown up in Vancouver, I feel sad, sad that I have to leave my hometown to find better opportunities. I find that most sane people have already left Vancouver, including my circles. Senior engineers are hard to find in Vancouver because nobody with a family are willing to stick around for a low salary and high cost of living. Employees know that the labor market is tight and that people are desperate for jobs, and frequently exploit them. Tech companies are strapped for cash, large tech companies come to Vancouver to hire foreigners (Microsoft being the most controversial to date), video game industry is unstable.

Vancouver is a sinking ship.

Kudos to this article for pointing out the problem: absentee foreign investors, often laundering dirty money. Real estate in the most desirable cities is becoming the 21st century's Nazi Gold: stolen wealth that is parked in another country, and with too many third-party beneficiaries who refuse to do the right thing.

Here's another factor that doesn't get much play: price inelasticity. Consider the 1970s oil crises. A 5% drop in supply availability would cause prices to go up 4-5 times. People can look at the statistics and say, "This only effects 10% of property, so it's not a big deal." Wrong. A small amount of supply destruction or removal can have a huge effect on the price. Why do you think De Beers sits on vaults of unused diamonds?

Inelasticity has an interesting effect of creating a lot of fake wealth, which is why so many people are complicit in the crime: Baby Boomer NIMBYs in California who don't give a damn either way about Chinese corruption or money laundering, but who become financially vested in blocking any positive change that might threaten property values by increasing supply (i.e. letting the market do what it's fucking supposed to do).

Too many people are afraid to appear politically incorrect by blaming overseas malefactors. First, it's not just "the Chinese". It's corrupt officials and criminals from all over the world: including some from rich European countries like Italy and France. You don't see them in the SF or Vancouver market, but you have a lot of European drug kingpins buying in Manhattan. Second: these people are the exact opposite of the traditional immigrants that made (and are continuing to make) the U.S. and Canada great. The traditional immigrants were and are trying to get away from poverty, oppression, and a lack of opportunity. They were trying to escape the flaws of other (often corrupt and failing) societies. We welcomed them with open arms, as we should, even though many of them had nothing in terms of economic wealth. These new buyers are the opposite, because they often don't live here (and won't, unless they get caught stealing from their home countries and have to escape) and because they are just trying to park their ill-gotten assets somewhere. Instead of trying to escape from corrupt societies, they're people who actively profit from overseas corruption and our using our real estate to launder their loot.

Real estate hyperinflation is a scourge of the modern world. It is time for cities and even countries to act to curtail absentee landlords playing Ponzi games with real estate to the extreme detriment of cities, culture, and the real economy. This is the worst kind of non productive market pathology... Worse in many ways than stock market bubbles and non-physical financial Ponzi schemes.

Kudos for pointing out the complicity of baby boomer land owners in this. It's another way for them to screw their children, something they've been systemically good at.

Now is a golden opportunity for Canada to take action on the laundered money in Vancouver. Xi Jinping is taking major steps to stomp out corruption in China and would likely be a partner.

The problem is that there is likely some corruption and bribing going on in Canada as well, thus nothing is being done about this issue.

Xi Jinping is taking major steps to stomp out corruption

No, he's just doing the same thing every Chinese leader since Mao has done, using anti-corruption measures as a weapon to smite his own political enemies.

Xi and his own family are as corrupt as anyone. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-06-29/xi-jinping...

In virtually all societies, land owners tend to hold more power than younger people and renters. So far the land owners are doing well from this.

Very well said. Political incorrectness is more like a protocol to tolerate differences to some extent for a diversified society. It's an essential element. However, on the other hand, it compromises the ability for most of us to have a more open debate. But perhaps it's the best we can have for now.

edit: typo

Vancouver is one of the worst places to live in the western world imo. Poverty and violence are much bigger problems than people realize. I have many friends who already have pretty bad health problems, and they're only in their 20s. I have no idea why this is happening, but I believe stress and hopelessness must be playing a large role. Kids can't seem to afford to do anything in this city except abuse drugs and vandalize. The aboriginal population in this city is even worse off. I feel really bad for most of my friends and wish I could help. People think Vancouver is a really diverse city, but it is the most segregated city I have ever been to. The Chinese live in Richmond and West Van, the Indians live in Surrey, and the other ethnicities (Aboriginals, Caucasians, etc.) are getting squeezed in the middle. It's quite sad.

Edit: Not just white people, I also mentioned aboriginals. I also have some chinese and indian friends who face the same issues, but I did not mention them due to the nature of the article. I grew up in the suburbs where the real problems seem to be much more obvious than a city-dweller who can safely live in his or her bubble and ignore the real issues. Don't really give a fuck what most of you think. If you want to see unhappy people, take a drive out to Delta or Surrey. Note: I am not comparing Vancouver to Oakland or some other ghettos, I was attempting to compare it to other major western cities. But obviously I have to be perfect with my words, otherwise I will leave myself open to leeches.

I've lived in Vancouver for 15 years and have no idea how you can even come close to those conclusions. Maybe you live in a different world than me but I have never felt close to unsafe in the city and don't know anyone with health problems in their 20's. Yeah, buying a house is expensive but rent isn't unreasonable if you're ok with roommates. In the summer I'd argue its one of the best cities in the western world. Beaches, mountains, and beautiful people.

I totally agree. I would also add the plenty of sunshine without the oppressive heat. I always quipped that most places I'd like to visit are only worth visiting in the summer, but man it's hard to leave Vancouver when the sun is out!

I lived in Vancouver for a year, (being based in Montreal), and I didn't really like it. The racial segregation, the juxtaposition of homeless people with overpriced joints in Gastown, the avoidance of political conversation in favor of weather and hobby talk, the police brutality I personally witnessed... there was a lot to love, but a "just-so" cluelessness permeated everything and really bothered me.

Really? One of the "worst" places?


Like I completely agree with the sentiment that Vancouver is just too expensive to live in. But one of the "worst" places in the Western world is a pretty ridiculous hyperbole. Just as a reference point, where exactly else have you lived?

The Chinese live in Richmond and West Van, the Indians live in Surrey, and the other ethnicities (Aboriginals, Caucasians, etc.) are getting squeezed in the middle. It's quite sad.

That may sound nice but it's not as neatly put as that. The way you phrase it it seems the Caucasians are the victims here, being squeezed on all sides by the Chinese and the Indians. Certainly the struggles of the Aboriginals are well-documented but Caucasians have certainly been profiting off the soaring real estate prices. If there is anything that "forced" Caucasians from many areas it was the rising value of their homes. Many have profitably sold their homes and either downsized or moved to other towns in BC (Kelowna, Okanagon). West Van was mostly white (in part due to restrictions on ownership to whites-only: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/16/b-c-property-titles-...) but if those West Van homes are now occupied by Chinese people then the previous white owners certainly sold them for a handsome sum.

The whites living in West Van seem to be alright, but I have not lived in West Van. The places in Vancouver I am familiar with are North Van, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver, and the UBC area. Again, I mispoke when I referred to "West Van," but you guys leave no room for mistake. I actually prefer to stir the pot a bit, makes me happy. Nothing that's said on here will change anything anyways. This is humour for me.

I think the GP is confusing West Side with West Van.

You're right. In hindsight I think I meant to type "the west of" Vancouver. West Van seems to have a bit of an absentee problem as well.

To be more accurate, there are large Chinese communities in Richmond, Burnaby (near Kingsway), the western side of Vancouver, etc.

I'm sorry but this is the single most retarded description of Vancouver, I know Vancouver has fucking problems but you've turned it into something like LA riot.

You know who is getting squeezed? It's people who grew up in Vancouver, whether they are Aboriginal, Indian, Asian, Black, Caucasian, Chinese, Whatever.

I just don't think this has anything to do with race but more with socioeconomic classes. Are certain cultures tend to be higher in the ladder? Of course, but anyone that is working and trying to live in Vancouver is feeling the heat from the lack of leadership.


> Clearly, you have no fucking clue and should just shut the fuck up. Stop polluting the airways with your ignorance.

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I love how you ignore his points and only comment on his generalized description of racial groups. Then proceed to reply rudely.

Also, as someone from Vancouver, there are black people - albeit very scarce.

>Kids can't seem to afford to do anything in this city except abuse drugs and vandalize.

Clearly your experiences say more about you and the people you know than the actual city.

Literal minded.

That's because you haven't lived in the suburbs. You probably live in a bubble. I admit that "one of the worst places to live in the western world" could be a hyperbole, but that's why I said "one of the worst" and "imo." Jesus you guys have tight asses. You have to realize that there is some anger in my tone. I have seen many people I care about fall through the cracks here. Again, I am talking about the suburbs. IMO, where the real issues arise. The cities are bubbles of ignorance.

Anyways, I take it you have not lived out near surrey or richmond. It's a bit different in the suburbs. The city is a much nicer place to live, especially when you have rich parents.

And yes it is amazing in the summer, in Vancouver, not the suburbs. The nature is undisputed, but that's about it.

This is the most misinformed comments thread I've ever seen on Hacker News.

I think intelligent HN readers are starting to just skip these racist/entitlement based real estate posts.

I hope.

This is a really tiresome issue for me. Lots of xenophobia and misinformation. As much as I hate an absentee owner tax maybe it would shut up the racists. I fear the issue isn't the high property prices.

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