By now, the only people in the world who are not aware that Vancouver has been overrun by Chinese “hot money-parking” oligarchs, who rush to buy any and every available real estate leading to such grotesque charts as the following showing the ridiculous surge in Vancouver real estate prices…
… are officials from the prvincial government conveniently turning a blind eye to what is a very clear real estate bubble. Which perhaps is understandable – for now prices are only going up, giving the impression that all is well even if it means locking out local buyers from being able to purchase any local housing. It will be a different story on the way down.
But instead of focusing on the culprit of this regional housing bubble, this time we’d like to present the “rich kids” of the Vancouver’s new invading billionaire class, who according to the NYT are also filthy rich.
Meet Andy Guo, an 18-year-old Chinese immigrant, who loves driving his red Lamborghini Huracán. He does not love having to share the car with his twin brother, Anky. “There’s a lot of conflict,” Mr. Guo said, as a crowd of admirers gazed at the vehicle and its vanity license plate, “CTGRY 5,” short for the most catastrophic type of hurricane.
The 360,000-Canadian-dollar car was a gift last year from the twins’ father, who travels back and forth between Vancouver and China’s northern Shanxi Province and made his fortune in coal, said Mr. Guo, an economics major at the University of British Columbia.
The car is more fashion than function. “I have a backpack, textbooks and laundry, but I can’t fit everything inside,” he lamented. And that is not the worst of it. “A cop once pulled me over just to look at the car,” he said.
The story behind the story is well-known. As the NYT summarizes, “China’s rapid economic rise has turned peasants into billionaires. Many wealthy Chinese are increasingly eager to stow their families, and their riches, in the West, where rule of law, clean air and good schools offer peace of mind, especially for those looking to escape scrutiny from the Communist Party and an anti-corruption campaign that has sent hundreds of the rich and powerful to jail.”
Their target of choice: Vancouver.
With its weak currency and welcoming immigration policies, Canada has become a top destination for China’s 1 percenters. According to government figures, from 2005 to 2012, at least 37,000 Chinese millionaires took advantage of a now-defunct immigrant investor program to become permanent residents of British Columbia, the province that includes Vancouver. This metropolitan area of 2.3 million is increasingly home to Chinese immigrants, who made up more than 18 percent of the population in 2011, up from less than 7 percent in 1981.
The stats are also known:
Many residents say the flood of Chinese capital has caused an affordable housing crisis. Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada to buy a home, according to a 2016 survey by the consulting firm Demographia. The average price of a detached house in greater Vancouver more than doubled from 2005 to 2015, to around 1.6 million Canadian dollars ($1.2 million), according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
And according to Knight Frank, in the last year alone Vancouver home prices soared by 25%, the most in the entire world “due to lack of supply, foreign demand and weaker Canadian dollar.” Understandably, residents angry about the rise of rich foreign real estate buyers and absentee owners, particularly from China, have begun protests on social media, including a #DontHave1Million Twitter campaign. The provincial government agreed this year to begin tracking foreign ownership of real estate in response to demands from local politicians.
But neither the soaring prices, not the groundswell in anger has had any impact on the new class of uberwealthy Chinese. Indeed, as the NYT adds, “the anger has had little effect on the gilded lives of Vancouver’s wealthy Chinese. Indeed, to the newcomers for whom money is no object, the next purchase after a house is usually a car, and then a few more.”
One group of people is particularly happy: local car dealers.
Many luxury car dealerships here employ Chinese staff, a testament to the spending power of the city’s newest residents. In 2015, there were 2,500 cars worth more than $150,000 registered in metropolitan Vancouver, up from 1,300 in 2009, according to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.
Many of Vancouver’s young supercar owners are known as fuerdai, a Mandarin expression, akin to trust-fund kids, that means “rich second generation.” In China, where the superrich are widely criticized as being corrupt and materialistic, the term provokes a mix of scorn and envy. The fuerdai have brought their passion for extravagance to Vancouver. White Lamborghinis are popular among young Chinese women; the men often turn in their leased supercars after a few months in order to play with a newer, cooler status symbol.
You will know them by their Lamborghinis: hundreds of young Chinese immigrants, along with a handful of Canadian-born Chinese, have started supercar clubs whose members come together to drive, modify and photograph their flashy vehicles, providing alluring eye candy for their followers on social media.
From left, Loretta Lai, Chelsea Jiang and Diana Wang attended a reception
at a Lamborghini dealership last month in Vancouver, British Columbia
Call it the rich Chinese kids of Instagram… in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Dynamic Auto Club has 440 members, 90 percent of whom are from China, said the group’s 27-year-old founder, David Dai. To join, a member must have a car that costs over 100,000 Canadian dollars, or about $77,000. “They don’t work,” Mr. Dai said of Vancouver’s fuerdai. “They just spend their parents’ money.”
Because they are rich, they are confident they own the town: “occasionally, the need for speed hits a roadblock. In 2011, the police impounded a squadron of 13 Lamborghinis, Maseratis and other luxury cars, worth $2 million, for racing on a metropolitan Vancouver highway at 125 miles per hour. The drivers were members of a Chinese supercar club, and none were older than 21, according to news reports at the time.”
And when a mere Lamborhini is not enough, there is always a Rolls-Royce:
On a recent evening, an overwhelmingly Chinese crowd of young adults had gathered at an invitation-only Rolls-Royce event to see a new black-and-red Dawn convertible, base price $402,000. It is the only such car in North America.
For some, such as Jin Qiao, 20, the price is no object: a baby-faced art student he moved to Vancouver from Beijing six years ago with his mother. During the week, Mr. Jin drives one of two Mercedes-Benz S.U.V.s, which he said were better suited for the rigors of daily life.
Ms. Jiang at the Lamborghini dealership. Credit
His most prized possession is a $600,000 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster Galaxy, its exterior custom wrapped to resemble outer space. A lanky design major who favors Fendi clothing and gold sneakers, Mr. Jin extolled the virtues of exotic cars and was quick to dismiss those who criticized supercar aficionados as ostentatious. “There are so many rich people in Vancouver, so what’s the point of showing off?” he said.
Where does the money come from for these “toys” which most people will live all their lives and never be able to afford? His parents of course. Asked what his parents did for work, Mr. Jin said his father was a successful businessman back in China but declined to provide details. “I can’t say,” he stammered with evident discomfort.
The corruption behind the nouveau China riche is well known, but as long as its flows those on the receiving end of the fund flows, are happy. “In Vancouver, there are lots of kids of corrupt Chinese officials,” said Shi Yi, 27, the owner of Luxury Motor, a car dealership that caters to affluent Chinese. “Here, they can flaunt their money.”
Not every has a penchant for supercars. Take Diana Wang, 23, who thinks a supercar is a poor investment, because its value decreases over time. “Better to spend half a million dollars on two expensive watches or some diamonds,” said a University of British Columbia graduate student who said she owned more than 30 Chanel bags and a $200,000 diamond-encrusted Richard Mille watch.
Ms. Wang, right, at the Lamborghini reception. Left, Paul Oei
photographed his wife, Ms. Lai, with a new car
Now those are some good investments. Her business accumen has helped her land a starring role on the online reality show “Ultra Rich Asian Girls of Vancouver,” and normally drives her parents’ Ferrari or Mercedes-Maybach when she visits them in Shanghai.
But, get this, in Canada, her parents gave her a strict car budget of 150,000 Canadian dollars ($115,000), so she drives the less-flashy Audi RS5.
“I could be in danger if people saw me in a supercar,” she said, her Breguet watch, worth more than a BMW, glinting in the sunlight as she drove the Audi through town.
But don’t call Ms. Wang spoiled: four years ago, to learn the value of money after her friends criticized her spending habits, Ms. Wang spent three days on the streets of Vancouver, playing homeless. She said she had left her mansion with no phone, identification or wallet, wearing Victoria’s Secret pajamas and $1,000 Chanel shoes.
While in voluntary poverty, she lined up for donated food and felt the sting of humiliation after she was kicked out of a Tim Horton’s fast-food restaurant for falling asleep at a table. The experiment, she said, gave her a new appreciation for her parents’ financial support.
“Before that experience, I never looked at a price tag,” she said. “Now I do.”
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