DSC_2628 Photo: Dustin Quasar/Flickr

As part of Vision Vancouver’s pledge to help create 2,500 new affordable homes in Vancouver by 2021, Mayor Gregor Robertson stated last week that the city would begin to “collect available data on issues such as vacant homes [aka foreign-owned], and provide information on ways to limit investor speculation and unnecessary vacancies in Vancouver’s housing market.”

To monitor and collect housing data, Robertson says the city will seek information from other public organizations, as well as senior levels of government, “and review best practices for how other cities track their housing market.”

Compiling data on foreign ownership in Vancouver is something that many industry experts (and the vast majority of the public) have been calling on the city to do for quite some time. Indeed, it is an issue that is as contentious as it has been widely-discussed. Just last month The Economist magazine pointed out that despite being home to one of the most expensive housing markets in the world, Vancouver’s median household income ranks 23rd out of 28 major Canadians cities. The reason for the sky-high real estate prices, the magazine proposed, is an influx of foreign, and especially Chinese, capital.

More recently Bloomberg News published an article entitled Secret path revealed for Chinese billions overseas, in which they quoted real estate agent Malcolm Hasman who agrees that the Vancouver market has been “fueled tremendously in the last couple of years by high-end wealthy Chinese and Hong Kong buyers.”

But these sorts of bold claims have never been backed up by any hard data, thus, the move to start collecting some. Certainly it’s a smart pledge by the Vision-dominated city council to make in an election year, but will it be possible to compile accurate data and will it help curb investor speculation? Time will tell.

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