Vancouver rally calls for crackdown on housing crisis, money laundering
Published Saturday, September 17, 2016 6:22PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 17, 2016 6:32PM PDT
Dozens of Metro Vancouverites gathered downtown Saturday to demand government action on the region’s housing affordability crisis, calling for a crackdown on money laundering.
Justin Fung is the founder of a grassroots group called Housing Action for Local Taxpayers - or HALT - which organized the rally.
“We're demanding fairness,” Fung said. “We want fairness for local taxpayers and those who contribute to their communities. We want a level playing field.”
Also speaking at the rally was Christine Duhaime, a lawyer who specializes in money laundering. She estimates more than $150 billion is filtered into Canada from China each year.
“It’s in all sectors, but especially in real estate because it’s easier to hide it here,” she said.
Duhaime is calling on the federal government to investigate money that could be entering the housing market illegally.
“Large proceeds of crime leaves China in large volumes,” she said. “Vancouver’s a key destination for some of that. We know China’s coming after it, and Canada isn't doing much to assist China.”
Steps are being taken to cool B.C.’s overheated housing market, including a recent 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers introduced by the provincial government in July.
Mayor Gregor Robertson announced Wednesday that a plan to tax empty homes would go ahead in 2017, and that the project could conservatively raise $2-million.
The proceeds will be used to create much-needed rental housing in the city's superheated real estate market, where buying a home has become out of reach for many people.
Ottawa plans to release a preliminary report on a national housing strategy in the coming months, another step towards affordable housing demonstrators say is long overdue.
“There’s no hope in hell I’ll ever be able to buy here, and this is where I was born and raised,” said Courtney, a 28-year-old who attended the rally with her boyfriend and dog.
“A generation ago a million dollars would have bought you two entire homes and now it barely buys you two bedrooms,” added Paul Kershaw, a UBC Professor who has started a movement called Generation Squeeze.
“We’ve come together to say this is madness, we’ve got to stop this problem – the cost of housing has reached code red crisis proportions.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Sarah MacDonald