Story out of the Globe and Mail this week, about wealthy Chinese participating in real estate tours to purchase Canadian properties.
Looks like déja vu all over again.
Canada for Sale!
Remember “Hongcouver” (earlier posting here), when the Hong Kong Chinese were snapping up real estate in Vancouver in anticipation of the fear that was to occur in 1997?
Their fear of the red commie hoardes during the 1997 re-possession of the island Brit colony.
Even California Arnold Schwarzenegger referred to Vancouver as Hongcouver.
“Vancouver, or as we call it down here, Hongcouver, they can fight for those jobs, but may the best province win.”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
…and the following snippet from Hollywoodgrind.com:
I am a Vancouverite of Hong Kong descent.
When Arnold said this a few years back, there was a great deal of disappointment that somebody with his stature and political clout would say something so offensive. This was not only a sentiment of the Chinese community, but of the entire population in general. Vancouver is a very cosmopolitan city. In fact, it almost seems like those of European descent are the minority.
So yes, stereotyping is offensive at the very least.
Yes, we remember Hongcouver well.
Back in the early 1990’s, local Vancouver realtors frenzied about, snagging up Chinese speaking sales people.
They catered to the HK love of status by pumping out information about “west side” exclusivity – of ‘upper class’ neighbourhoods, of prestigious schools, of being in an uppity neighbourhood …where poorer cousins and pals would turn green with envy.
It was real estate greed and snobbery at it’s worst.
Ah, yes… the good old Hongcouver days!
We remember the local backlash too.
Remember the proliferation of “monster” homes?
Big fat, funny proportioned boxes built cheaply and poorly disguised to look like estate mansions. Boxes crammed with many small bedrooms… because quantity counted more than quality when it came down to who had the biggest and most.
Boxes built for potential new HK families were eerily similar.
Builders were in cahoots with their realtor buds. They churned out a formula of placing lots of number “eight” (8) on a building address (because the number ‘8′ sounded similar to ‘wealth’ in Chinese).
And when doo-dads like “Chinese wok kitchens”, gaudi staircases, marble tiled floors, and superficial ‘high-end’ finishes like, granite countertops, kohler bathroom fixtures, along with fake designer lighting fixtures were pasted onto the monster box, HK clientele were frothing at their mouths.
It was an industry created to cater to Hong Kongers’ love of status and showing off.
typical Hongcouver Monster home
“the lipstick on a pig” design style
Then came the nasty exchange between the locals and the newbies.
We remember the wholesale destruction of trees on private properties that were cleared to make way for these monster boxes. Bloated stucco and stone box homes were popping up like swollen members on quiet little tree lined streets and mature small bungalow neighbourhoods.
In short time, the ugly elements of racial tension started to appear.
We got the moniker “Hongcouver” 香哥華. We got,
“Chinks hate trees”
Oh, that nasty “C” word!
The new citizens claimed of bad luck when trees were in the way. Bad Feng shui. Others accused the Hong Kongers of another reason:
… trees are high maintenance.
Leaves to rake, branches to cut, and worst of all, it blocked views. Views from the monster home to beyond, and more important, views from the street to the monster box.
Our fictional Mr Hop Sing further explains,
Yeah. Me likee tree.
But me no likee big tree.
You must understand, how I can show off my big Canada mansion with a big leafy tree blocking the view?
How you will to show off nicee house?
Leaf also brock gutter too.
NO can likee!
You no understand me when I cut tree.
And before you can say “how lovely to see the autumn leaves hit the pavement”, a huge outcry from Vancouver citizens were heard.
Those Hongers are chopping down our trees!
That was 15 years ago.
Is this below-the-surface racial BS about to simmer back to the surface?
A read through some of the comments on this week’s Globe and Mail comments echo some of the same old sentiments.
But before we paint dissent as racism, let’s understand the frustration behind some of those comments.
Take this comment for example:
This bugs me to no end. Why are we allowing non Canadians to buy property in Canada?I wish our government would make it illegal for foreigners to buy property or land here.
Hmmm. Interesting point!
We, along with other friends in our generation are wondering if our kids will be able to afford to buy their own home when they get to our age.
It does kind of suck to see the community we’ve helped build, then later learn, that our descendants may be excluded from it.
It is a tough call.
We love immigration and outside investment, as it helps stimulate the economy, provide jobs, trickle down effect and blah, blah, blah.
But when an ‘outsider’ drops into town over a weekend, and purchases 30+ single family homes in Vancouver (according to a recent Vancouver Sun article), it is tough to compete.
Other jurisdictions have made it impossible for foreigners to acquire landed property.
Places like Singapore and China.
In China, both locals and foreigners can’t own property. You can only lease it from the government.
* * * *
Here is a portion of the Globe and Mail story (link here):
China’s latest export: home buyers
by JOHN LEHMAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
30 investors taking tour of Toronto and Vancouver this summer expected to drop a half-million dollars each
Half a world away, a handful of Chinese citizens are feverishly planning a Canadian real-estate shopping excursion.A farmer, an engineer, a furniture maker and a caterer are among the 30 hopeful investors who have paid $5,500 each to take a real estate tour of Toronto and Vancouver in August. This isn’t about tourism: Each of them expect to drop at least a half-million dollars on downtown condos during their 10-day visit.
While Chinese investors in Canada are nothing new, this delegation is thought by those in the industry to be one of the largest to travel in one group. The trip was put together by Ricky Zhang of TransAsia Investment Partners, a Chinese company that was created to help residents buy properties abroad, particularly in Canada.
He said it was difficult for investment groups to travel together before last December, because Canada and China didn’t have a deal that allowed large Chinese tours to Canada. But with a travel agreement now in place, he said interest has increased and Chinese investors are looking to spend heavily while abroad.
“With the rising risk of the bubble bursting in the Chinese real estate market, there is a demand for overseas real estate for diversification, safety and relatively high rental yield,” he said.
“The purpose for this trip is to find good deals for immigrants and investors. We do not intend to bring speculators to Canada and, during the promotion events, we always highlight on the market stability as opposed to the great volatility in China.”
To ensure investors are serious, he has deliberately set the price tag high.
“They stay in four-star hotels, eat $30 meals,” Mr. Zhang said. “I am not sure if this is a really high standard in Canada, but in China it is only affordable by the upper class.”
[…] more on the Globe and Mail website
tUCC note: that paragraph “…he has deliberately set the price tag high”, is obviously just bloody GREED …
So, is it Chinada 中拿大?
We, at the UGLY Chinese Canadian do have one nagging question.
Why weren’t there any grumblings or whinings from our fellow belly aching citizens, when Americans bought up properties here in Canada? Or when the Germans were snapping up stuff over here?
Ah, yah bunch of Hosers… it’s one of the not-so-great mysteries here in the Great White North.