What’s next for #DontHave1Million?

Vancouver doth protest to little effect and the Port of Prince Rupert pulls far ahead of its pack

Pick your problem: vacant condos, million-dollar tear-downs, a lack of social housing. At the moment, none of that really matters: the wick of populist rage has been lit. For the growing #donthave1million crowd, the concern isn’t over cause. Simply put, where’s a young professional to find a home in this town?

The answer, according to the provincial government, will not include a tax on speculation. That came Monday from B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong—the man with the power to enact such a tax—who was quick to shut down the mayor’s proposal for a levy on house flipping. “In other jurisdictions, under the guise of trying to regulate property values, all you have seen is the government taking in a lot more money and not having any impact on housing affordability,” said de Jong (Globe and Mail).

That idea, floated first by Bob Rennie then endorsed by the mayor, called for a tax on profits from short-term real estate sales to discourage speculation, known in some circles as house-flipping. The activists who have pushed the issue to the fore were not impressed: “where’s the evidence that our real problem is investor flipping rather than the influx of global capital? Nonexistent,” wrote Sandy Garossino, one of the rallying voices on affordability in Vancouver, in a Vancouver Observer op-ed. 

So what now? In a Facebook post in the wake of Sunday’s rally, Robertson effectively passed the buck. “Soaring housing prices in Vancouver, and throughout the region, require action from the B.C. and federal governments to create a more level playing field,” he wrote. 

With a no from the province and the city powerless, it might be the federal election on the horizon, and Ottawa’s enticing array of powers—from beefing up the the country’s housing agency to just measuring the flow of foreign money—that opens the way for some sort of answer to Vancouver’s affordability crisis. And while the Conservatives may be skittish (see James Moore’s position on the topic from the last federal vote), if #donthave1million has staying power, we’ll be talking about it in October.

What about $50 million?
If #donthave1million has left Vancouver out of reach, then a 1,400-acre private island in the Georgia Strait is probably beyond your means. But if you’re in the market for an island—with a working farm, apple orchards, twelve kilometres of waterfront and, perhaps most importantly, an on-island source of freshwater—then your dream property is on the market. The price tag? $50 million, negotiable. Sadly, if you’re looking for shelter, you’re going to have to make do with a three-bedroom residence.

Prince of ports
The northerly port of Prince Rupert was the fastest growing container port in North American last year, according to the Journal of Commerce’s annual port traffic roundup. Imports increased a staggering 18.9 per cent, thanks to container traffic from China and an ongoing expansion. In sum, the port at Prince Rupert processed 620,000 container equivalents in 2014. By comparison, Vancouver’s port processed 2.9 million.