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As violent protests continue to erupt in Hong Kong over the administrative region’s autonomy and pressures from Mainland China, some Hong Kongers are mulling moves to Canada, which could lead to a noticeable increase in demand for housing in Vancouver.

“There has been an increase [in] the number of Hong Kongers considering moving to, renting, or buying in Vancouver,” Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of Juwai, a property-search website that connects Chinese buyers with international homes, confirms in a statement.

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Chmiel expects troubles in the region to soon be resolved. But he suggests that looking into Vancouver property is a way for Hong Kongers to keep options open should they feel the need to move.

In particular, Hong Kong residents with pre-existing ties to Canada — including those who have studied, worked, or already own property abroad — have suddenly expressed increased interest in the Canadian housing market, Chmiel suggests.

In many ways, the types of neighbourhoods they’ll be eyeing aren’t different from what any other Vancouver homebuyer may prioritize. Hong Kongers’ property searches will focus on areas with good schools or that are near universities, says Chmiel. Access to public transit and shopping is also important.

Of course, they’ll also look to neighbourhoods that already have established Hong Konger populations.

In terms of what all this means for Vancouver’s property market, Chmiel doesn’t anticipate increased overseas interest stemming from Hong Kong’s political situation to result in overheating.

“I wouldn’t expect a wave of buyers so large that it puts the property market in crisis,” he says in the statement. “Agents and developers should notice a discernable uptick as Canada-focused Hong Kongers move into the market with more motivation than in 2018,” he continues, adding, “There should be a similar uptick in some rental property.”

Foreign homebuyers have been a hot-button issue in Vancouver, where they have been blamed for driving up the cost of housing.

In 2016, the BC government implemented a 15 percent tax for foreign homebuyers in Metro Vancouver. The levy was increased to 20 percent in 2018 as it was expanded to include the Fraser Valley, Capital, Nanaimo and the Okanagan region.

While the federal statistical agency Statistics Canada and BC’s Ministry of Finance publish data of non-resident real estate transactions, it will be hard to tell to what extent Hong Kongers are active in the Vancouver area market.

“Not all of this [activity] will show up in the foreign buyer statistics, because many of these people have legal Canadian residency or citizenship,” Chmiel states.

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