British Columbia

Accusations of racism stifling Vancouver's housing debate, say activists

"In the time I’ve been following this, the race card’s been pulled multiple times ... and it’s not the Chinese folks that are saying it," says Justin Fung, a member of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers.

Without asking real questions we won't find real answers, say community activists

Two activists agree foreign money and race are important when discussing Vancouver's housing affordability crisis: but is it a central issue that's being avoided or a smokescreen to deflect from those truly responsible? (CBC)

Foreign money, mostly from China, matters when it comes to the Lower Mainland real estate market — so why can't we talk about that openly?

That's the question two community activists grappling with the housing affordability crisis say people are avoiding for fear of being accused of racism.

Fenella Sung, a former Fairchild Radio host and coordinator of Friends of Hong Kong, says an open discussion is needed to get real answers.

"Why can't we talk about where the source of money is and how they are impacting our real estate market right now? I just don't understand," she told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"I think every time when we try to really focus on the issue as to what is the real source and how it's impacting the community, and who is not doing the right thing, then someone will throw out the race card, and say, 'Hey, let's not talk about it, because it's not nice, or it's kind of racist.'"

Sung says avoiding real issues stops people from coming up with real solutions.

"If we haven't really confronted the issue, really understood the depth of the issue and to what extent it impacts the community, we won't be able to come up with a solution."

“19 days of data collected to try to solve a problem that’s been going on for over a decade? Isn’t it laughable?” said Fenella Sung, a former Fairchild Radio host and coordinator of Friends of Hong Kong. (CBC)

Sung says the data the B.C. government released last week, which showed foreign buyers made three per cent of property purchases province-wide over three weeks, also danced around the issue of race.

"Nineteen days of data collected to try to solve a problem that's been going on for over a decade? Isn't it laughable?"

'Separate the colour of the people from the colour of the money'

Justin Fung, a member of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers, says accusations of racism are being used as a "smokescreen" to bring difficult conversation to a halt.

"There's a lot of folks making a lot of money off of Chinese money," he said. "These are primarily people in the real estate industry: the realtors, the property developers. They certainly want to continue seeing this happen."

"In the time I've been following this, the race card's been pulled multiple times ... and it's not the Chinese folks that are saying it."

Fung says "we have to separate the colour of the people from the colour of the money" to keep the debate healthy.

Fenella Sung, on the left, and Justin Fung agree government inaction has left Asian-Canadian communities feeling the backlash for the housing crisis. (CBC)

He does feel inequity is causing racism to be more pronounced and because he is Chinese-Canadian, he fears he could be taken as part of the problem

Sung agrees, and blames government inaction for over a decade for making Asian-Canadians feel less safe.

"Right now, the brewing anger we see in the newspapers, in the streets, … the backlash is on the Chinese community, the Asian Communities," she said.

Fung and Sung both agreed coordinated government action is required to solve the problem, and politicians need to listen more to people who aren't established homeowners.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Activists say accusations of racism stifling debate about housing affordability

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