How over 46,000 wealthy immigrants took a back door into Vancouver and Toronto’s housing markets
Over 46,000 wealthy immigrants took a back door into Vancouver and Toronto’s housing markets over the past three decades, according to custom Census data obtained exclusively by Global News.
That back door is the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP).
Established in 1986, it offers permanent residency to international business people with net assets of at least $1.6 million, who make an interest-free investment of $800,000 in la belle province — and the government returns their money after five years.
Applicants are supposed to settle in Quebec.
But data shows just how many of them have ended up elsewhere – leaving Quebec with their investments, other provinces with their health care bills, and cities with flows of foreign capital that have been linked to soaring home prices.The data, which includes both primary and secondary applicants, showed that 57,935 investor immigrants who came through Quebec were living in Canada as of 2016.
Nearly 28,000 of them (48.3 per cent) were living in B.C., while almost 22,000 (37.9 per cent) were in Ontario.
Only 6,050 investor immigrants who came through Quebec (10.4 per cent) were living in the province at that time.Vancouver was a major recipient of investor immigrants. The data showed 27,080 (46.7 per cent of the total) living in the Vancouver region as of 2016, with 8,590 (14.8 per cent) in the City of Vancouver, 6,835 (11.8 per cent) in Richmond and 3,160 (5.5 per cent) in Burnaby.
Meanwhile, in Ontario, there were 19,265 (33.3 per cent) investor immigrants in the Toronto area. Major destinations within that region included the City of Toronto (8,760), Markham (3,510), Richmond Hill (2,355) and Mississauga (2,060).
By contrast, there were 5,660 investor immigrants in the Montreal region, and very few in any of Quebec’s other Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA).As permanent residents, no foreign buyers taxes can touch these people. Nor can any measure to curb foreign demand in Canadian real estate.
The numbers didn’t surprise Josh Gordon, an SFU public policy professor who has focused on Toronto and Vancouver’s housing markets.
“There has been kind of insider accounts that suggest this is what’s been going on,” he said of QIIP applicants settling outside Quebec.
“To have this data that confirms this should put extra pressure on governments to address this awful program.”
Gordon described the QIIP as a “farce,” saying that Quebec benefits from the program while other jurisdictions incur the costs of hosting wealthy immigrants in their provinces.
“The Quebec government receives an interest-free loan, while the house price pressures and the social service costs of supporting investor immigrant families, who have historically paid low amounts of tax, falls on British Columbia and Ontario,” he said.
A pipeline funneling foreign billions into B.C.
Estimates of where these households came from have varied over the years.
In the mid-1990s, investor immigration to Canada, which came both through Quebec and the cancelled federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), was dominated by applicants from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
From 2007 to 2011, the country of last residence for 86.8 per cent of principal applicants to the IIP was in Asia, Australia or the Pacific, according to a federal report.
UBC geographer Daniel Hiebert, who has focused on international migration, said investor immigration is likely now dominated by applicants from Mainland China.
The federal report also showed that investor immigrants are heavily invested in real estate.