Substitute any one of two dozen nationalities, after all, and you have a chapter in Canada’s cherished narrative of migration, settlement and shared prosperity.
But as a Chinese newcomer with a buy-at-all-costs resolve, Shen also personifies a phenomenon dividing those “natives” he’d like to call his neighbours.
It’s common for foreign-based buyers to send their children and spouses here while remaining in their home country.
Should such buyers be lumped in with overseas owners of income properties?
In the past five years, the flow of money from mainland China into Canadian real estate has reached what many consider dangerous levels, contributing to a gold-rush atmosphere in the nation’s leading cities, while stirring anger among young, middle-class Canadians who feel shut out of their hometown markets.
Its impact on Vancouver’s gravity-defying boom is the best known—and most hotly debated—example, as eye-popping price gains leave behind such quaint indicators as average household income, or regional economic activity.
Yet the self-same conditions are adding handsomely to the net worth of millions of homeowners, and supporting a constellation of housing-related industries, from real estate sales to interior decoration.
(The agency has been roundly criticized in the past for Canada’s dearth of dependable real estate statistics.) By breaking down the numbers according to the age of the building in question, it provided the first reliable indicator of accelerated foreign buying.
Paul Shen can tick off the reasons Mainland Chinese people buy property in Canada as surely as any fast-talking B. The richest, of course, regard homes in the West as stable vessels for disposable cash, but Shen lays no claim to such affluence.
Some long to escape the fouled earth and soupy air of their country’s teeming cities, he explains, while others are following relatives to enclaves so well-populated by other Chinese expats they hardly feel like foreigners.
Selling points ranged from the quiet of the street—perfect for their six-year-old son—to the stunning Vancouver Island vistas all around.
High on his list, though, was Victoria’s comfortable distance from the bustling Chinese communities of B. As Shen—betraying his limited knowledge of pre-settlement Canadian history—puts it: “We wanted a place that would allow us to live with the natives.” It’s hard not to smile at his idealism.