Gauging the impact of the mythical Chinese buyer

Hot take: a house in the Lower Mainland is a good deal

Plus, Overwaitea’s seafood troubles and a historic sign gets an awkward makeover

The China effect
Here’s an offbeat view: a house in Vancouver is a good deal, perhaps even cheap. That’s the argument put forward by Dan Scarrow, the executive who runs Macdonald Realty’s office in Shanghai, which targets Chinese buyers, speaking at a talk held by Vancouver’s CFA Society on Tuesday. “It’s also been repeated in the Chinese media that Vancouver is very expensive,” said Scarrow, “but when we actually start showing [our clients] the real estate on offer, they turn around and say that’s very cheap.” He took issue with the oft-cited remark that the city is the second-most unaffordable in the world, highlighting figures showing that square footage at the luxury-end of the market is three times cheaper here than in London or Monaco. As for the impact of those buyers, attracted by a weak Canadian dollar, clean air and good schools—he noted that the son of Alibaba founder Jack Ma attends Vancouver boarding school St. George’sit’s less important than low interest rates, low property tax and strict zoning rules. “There’s no conspiracy to cover the eyes of the general public over the impact of buyers from China,” Scarrow said.

Under the sea
An organization that advocates for sustainable seafood has ended its relationship with Overwaitea Food Group—owner of Save-On-Foods, Urban Fare and PriceSmart—in a dispute over the latter’s lack of proof that it was reducing the sale of ‘unsustainable’ seafood. At issue: Overwaitea, a privately-held subsidiary of Pattison Group, wasn’t willing to disclose information on its sales of seafood, both the fair-catch kind and the kind that SeaChoice sees as slightly more dubious. For SeaChoice, this is a big deal: the group works with grocery stores to promote fish that are ‘sustainable’ (i.e. the stock isn’t endangered or caught by big catch-all nets and the fishery minimizes its negative impact on the ecosystem). When Overwaitea first partnered with SeaChoice in 2009, it was the first major Canadian retailer to develop a sustainable seafood policy. 

Seeing red
A historic blue sign atop a Class A heritage building is seeing red, as in it was painted red by its owner without permission from the city, prompting protest from heritage advocates. An account of the sign change, and why it has heritage watchers riled, is in the Globe and MailAtop the Dick Building at Broadway and Granville now owned by AEG Education Services, a private college, the sign’s makeover marks an unfortunate footnote in Vancouver’s unique history of neon signsand its mixed record at preserving them. While some signs like Save On Meats have become new icons for changing neighbourhoods, others—notably the CANADIAN NATIONAL sign formerly atop Pacific Central Station—were wholesale replaced, despite their heritage designation.