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Is the debate over who is buying Vancouver real estate steering into racist territory?

(iStock Photo)

Commentator says land title study on homes bought on Vancouver's West Side had a narrow scope

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Some people say the conversation about the high price of housing in Metro Vancouver has steered toward racism or xenophobia.

The debate over who is snapping up high end real estate and how it is affecting the market has made for some contentious headlines, but a commentator at local multi-cultural station believes we need to look at the issue from a wider perspective.

A land title study released this week suggested a majority of homes bought recently on the West Side were bought by investors from Mainland China, but Ken Tung with AM1470 points out it had a very narrow scope.

“Unfortunately, the report looked at the racial background of the buyers,” says Tung. “But I think it tried to answer a question that people are asking. I think if we look at that question it does reflect some policy issues we need to address.”

Tung believes Metro Vancouver’s affordability problem has more to do with simple supply and demand in a world-class city than with overseas Chinese investors.

“If you look at the great cities of the world, people definitely want to live here,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“We have to look at our recent immigration policy. If you want to draw educated, middle-class or higher people who have accumulated wealth, they will come here and buy a house. The other thing to look at is education, especially foreign students. We welcome foreign students and exchange students into our great education system here and our schools and universities benefit on both the academic side and the revenue side.”

Tung says we also have to look at the city’s push to increase density. “The land is so limited, when we increase the density, it definitely becomes more valuable.”

He believes all levels of government need to work together to try to make Vancouver more affordable to the middle class majority while still welcoming some investment.

What has he been hearing from AM1470 listeners about the issue?

“If you look at ethnic community radio — whether it’s Cantonese, Mandarin or Punjabi — it is a sharing place, a place for people to get knowledge and information, and a place to educate newcomers. Information is important for newcomers and people who have been here for over 20 years,” says Tung.

“They all understand the rationale behind supply and demand and the immigration background but I think the general public also needs to understand the other people’s situation, as well. Putting it on mainstream media and sharing all this information will give a wider perspective. I think that’s important.”