Immigration Has Caused Vancouver’s Astronomic Housing Prices

Immigration Has Caused Vancouver’s Astronomic House Prices

UBC Geography Professor David Ley has shown in his book “Millionaire Migrants” that immigration has been the key factor in driving Vancouver house prices to the level of second highest in the world. In looking at the 25 years, 1977 to 2002, Ley found a positive correlation co-efficient of 0.94 between Vancouver house prices and net international migration. Ley described this connection as “unusually decisive”.

David Ley’s book focuses on wealthy immigrants who came to Canada through Canada’s Business Immigration Programme (BIP). He looks particularly at the influence of these wealthy immigrants on Vancouver housing prices. Only prices in Hong Kong are higher.

Ley’s findings are exceptionally important. They convincingly paint an extremely damning picture of Canada’s Business Immigrant Programme which started in 1978 for Entrepreneurs and Self-employed. It expanded to include Investors in 1986. The research Ley presents shows readers that the BIP has been a disaster and that it should have been terminated long ago. Ley’s evidence also shows, by implication, that the BIP caused significant economic hardship, if not catastrophe, for tens of thousands of actual and potential Canadian-born housing buyers. Canada’s Department of Immigration, its numerous Ministers of Immigration, the entire federal Cabinet including numerous Prime Ministers must have known about the disaster long ago. The two big questions are these : Why did they let it go on for about 35 years? What other disasters is the immigration department hiding?

David Ley’s research should silence those who have tried to minimize the effects of Canada’s Business Immigrant Programme on Metro Vancouver house prices. The truth is the opposite. Between 1980 and 2001 alone, the BIP allowed about 330,000 immigrants (BI’s plus dependents) to enter Canada. Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea accounted for over half of all the business immigrants landing in Canada. Three-quarters of those who came from those source countries came to British Columbia, probably almost solely to the Metro Vancouver area. Metro Vancouver’s population in 1981 was 1.268 million. In 2001, it was 1,986 million. Business Immigrants and dependents alone must have comprised a significant percentage of Metro Vancouver’s population increase.

Ley’s research should thoroughly discredit the Laurier Institution which was created in 1988 by major players in Pacific Rim finance, real estate, trade and transportation to conceal the truth about the influence of immigration, especially that of wealthy immigrants. Laurier’s deceptive, announced objectives were to promote multiculturalism, and immigrant integration and ward off nativist tendencies. Ley says Its first real task, however, was to disabuse “controversial suggestions that…the Chinese were the cause of increased real estate prices”. The so-called “reports” it made were entrusted to the Canadian Real Estate Research Bureau at UBC- where academics used their social position to further their globalist ideology.

At the very least, Ley’s revelations should shame Ottawa into apologizing to hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have been saddled with huge mortgages or who have been displaced in the housing market in their home cities. In fact, it would be a stroke of poetic justice if a massive class action suit were to be initiated, for starters, against the Laurier Institution and its sleazy sponsors for the billions of dollars of damage they have helped to inflict on Canadians.

Ley points out that the Laurier Institution’s first report absolved investment capital from outside Canada . “Instead, (it said) ‘everyone’ was implicated, especially middle-age baby boomers. The Laurier reports lacked credibility, even within the real estate industry. But its reports had the desired effect. They convinced many, particularly the media (news teams like our CBC and others??) that once were critical of the BIP to believe what the Laurier Institution said. Ley says that to compound the problem, real median family income in Metro Vancouver actually fell by 3% between 1990 and 2000, creating “an unbreachable affordability barrier” for many families.

Ley’s book provides extensive background information. For example, he says that Canada began the Business Immigrant program in 1978 in the belief that Asian Business immigrants could easily transfer their success in Asia to Canada. According to Canada’s business groups and some in government, bringing wealthy Asian immigrants such as successful entrepreneurs and self-employed here would stimulate Canada’s economy. The Business Immigrant idea gained more traction in the 1980’s because the economic recession of the early 1980’s was the deepest in 50 years. Ley concedes that there were some BI successes, but says that the majority of the BI migrants said from the start that economics was not an important reason for coming to Canada. Many were in their 40’s, had already made large sums of money and wanted a slower life style. In other words, a significant number of Business Immigrants subverted the entire purpose of the programme which expected BI’s to be economically active here. Inadequate government monitoring of BI’s kept important information from surfacing. In addition, in spite of government-commissioned audits which showed extensive BI fraud and failure, government allowed the BI programme to continue.

Interviews with HK migrants showed that BI’s were arriving in Canada ‘with deep anxiety rather than great expectations; …many of them expected the worst” Return migration (some as “astronauts”) was planned by these migrants from the very beginning. While here, they would take advantage of Canada’s education system and superior environment. Western education would provide their children with cultural and social capital (especially university degrees) which they probably would have found extremely difficult to acquire in Asia because of Asia’s highly competitive and over-populated education system. (Ley says little about the negative effects of this competition on Canadian-born students, but the effects occurred.) In addition, many BI’s found Canada’s tax system hostile, particularly the demand to reveal foreign assets. Many had operated in Asia with minimal labour restraints and few environmental regulations. In fact, according to one reliable source, many operated in their home countries with two sets of books, one for Asian governments and another for themselves. In general, BI’s expected to follow the same practices in Canada.

(More details will follow in a future bulletin.)


David Ley says this book began in the early 1990’s with the demolition of old houses in elite neighbourhoods close to his own. It continued for 15 years. He read hundreds of letters sent to Vancouver City Council. He became co-director of the Metropolis Project, a long-term, federally funded interdisciplinary study of immigration and urbanization. His emphasis was on wealthier immigrants from East Asia. He first conducted interviews with 30 BI immigrants. A series of projects and another 250 household interviews followed. A telephone survey of 1500 households occurred next, and then field visits / interviews with 60 returnees to Hong Kong and one field visit to Taiwan. He read newspaper files plus translations of Chinese articles. He consulted federal databases, the Landed Immigrant Data System, the longitudinal Immigrant Data Base (IMDB), Planning documents, consultants’ reports and house price data.