Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

March 4, 2019

By Vancouver Sun |

How did it come to pass that thousands of people who came to Metro Vancouver through a provincial immigration scheme bought pricey houses?

A Statistics Canada report shows 2,370 people who recently arrived in B.C. through a provincial immigration program have bought single-family houses worth an average of $2.38 million in Metro Vancouver, which is $800,000 above the norm for Canadian-born house buyers.

It’s a startling figure, in part because politicians often trumpet how the relatively small provincial immigration programs were created primarily to fine-tune Ottawa’s bulkier immigration policy by pinpointing the right skilled workers for each local labour market.

Given that the emphasis of so-called “provincial nominee programs” is supposed to be on newcomers linking to a job, how have thousands since 2009 been able to quickly buy pricey Metro Vancouver real estate? It’s difficult to get an answer from officialdom. So we’re left to our own devices to figure out this irregular access.

I’m not alone in suggesting one of the last things most young people need in Metro Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market is to be squeezed out by another stream of foreign capital. The B.C. NDP government is among those trying to crack down on this price-inflating phenomenon associated with “satellite families” who buy stately homes.

But the revealing data is there in the particulars of a January Statistics Canada report. Its charts point to the way many families are coming to Metro Vancouver with large amounts of wealth, which they’ve been funnelling into housing.

And it’s not only Metro Vancouver’s housing market that has been hit by millionaire migrants entering through provincial immigration programs. So has Greater Toronto’s. The average price of a Toronto house bought by a recent provincial nominee is $1.06 million, according to the StatsCan report, while the average price of a detached house of Canadian-born owners in Toronto is significantly less, $849,000.

And just as in Metro Vancouver, it is the recent newcomers to Toronto from China who have had the most cash to spend on property. Mainland Chinese make up about two of three of the home buyers in each city who arrived through the nominee program.

The StatsCan report, titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver, offers only a snapshot of this provincial nominee mansion phenomenon, however. It doesn’t capture the program’s link to condominiums. And it leaves open speculation about causes.

Therefore, many questions remain outstanding about what is going on with provincial nominee programs, questions which are typically paid little heed.

B.C.’s provincial nominee program brought 6,500 newcomers to the province in 2018, a large jump from the 2,600 it welcomed a decade earlier.

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