UPDATE: Vancouver mayor blasts ethnic ownership study for "racist tones"

What’s in a name?

According to a new case study, apparently enough to figure out whether someone is a “Mainland Chinese buyer” or not.

Andy Yan with Bing Thom Architects used land title data for homes sold on Vancouver’s west side between August 2014 and February 2015.

It showed, among other things, 66-percent of the 172 single family homes sold were purchased by people with “non-Anglicized Chinese names.”

Does non-Anglicized Chinese name indicate citizenship?

Yan admits, a person’s name doesn’t show their status as a foreigner or citizen.

“This study doesn’t claim to be a measure of foreigners in Vancouver’s real estate market.”

In fact, he insists the study’s intent was not to look at foreign ownership.

“The foreign status element is just isn’t a focus for this study. What we were curious about is the role of global capital, foreign capital, if you will coming in toward the local real estate market.”

He says name analysis is accepted in academic study to determine ethnicity, not citizenship.

Racist tones?

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (CKNW)

Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson says he has some problems with the study.

“I’m very concerned with the racist tones that are implied here, and we have to get away from that. We have to deal with this as a housing challenge we have.”

As for the suggestion foreign capital is driving real estate prices up, Gregor Robertson says Vancouver is a city built by immigration.

“It’s really about making sure there is balance, and that there are tools to deal with flipping and speculation and big movement of luxury homes, where there’s an opportunity to extract some of the upside and reinvest it in the low to middle-income market.”

Robertson is calling on the province to do more to get real data on real estate transactions, and level the playing field.

Lack of data

While Yan accepts his work’s limitations, he also suggests the bigger problem is the lack of data available to study.

He received the land title information he used from Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby.

The New Democrat also admits, the study is not perfect, but that’s also not stopping him from promoting the work.

“Unfortunately [the data is] not perfect because the province and the federal government still haven’t stepped up to provide the real data that we could use in constructive way, and that would require citizenship data, it would require taxation data, and it would require land title data all being studied by academics.”

As for the suggestion there’s quite a bit of foreign money entering the Vancouver market, Eby admits that may be being brought in by Canadians of Chinese descent.

View the case study prepared by Andy Yan: