British Columbia

37% of Metro Vancouverites think real estate market is 'extremely corrupt': report

According to a Transparency International Canada report on perceptions of domestic corruption, 37 per cent of those living in the Metro Vancouver area would describe the real estate sector as “extremely corrupt."

Findings in Transparency International Canada's 1st report on perception of domestic corruption

In a new report, Metro Vancouverites said they felt the region's real estate market was 'extremely corrupt.' (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

A new report paints a grim picture of how Metro Vancouverites perceive the region's real estate market.

The report by non-profit Transparency International Canada, based on an online survey of residents of B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan in August 2018, describes Western Canadians' views and perceptions on corruption in Canada.

According to the survey, 37 per cent of respondents in Metro Vancouver described the real estate sector as "extremely corrupt," while only 15 per cent of Western Canadians outside the Vancouver area felt this way. 

In general, Western Canadians perceived federal political parties as the institution most affected by corruption. But for the Vancouver area — where housing affordability has become the most important local political issue — the report highlighted the real estate industry as a particular cause for concern. 

Housing affordability has become one of the most important political issues in the region. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Reports by independent commissioner Peter German and the media have revealed how easy it is to launder money in the region and how this laundered money can end up in other sectors, specifically real estate.

At a keynote speech Thursday in Vancouver for Transparency International Canada, B.C. Attorney General David Eby acknowledged the situation.

"Money laundering has been ignored for too long and it is hurting our communities," said Eby. "Our government is fighting money laundering on several fronts, including casinos and real estate, and its ties to organized crime, gang activity and violence."

James Cohen, the executive director of Transparency International Canada, says the region's troubles stem from lax regulations across the country that allow people to exploit the system. 

"Within Vancouver [specifically] you just have a particular relationship of criminal elements working that have found the luxury market [and] who have found market overseas to bring that money in," Cohen said. 

Listen to James Cohen's interview with the CBC's Stephen Quinn:

James Cohen, the executive director of Transparency International Canada, talks about what more is needed to crack down on money laundering in Vancouver real estate. 9:40

Cohen said the first step in addressing the issue is acknowledging there is a problem.

In September, the province announced two initiatives aimed at stopping the flow of dirty money into real estate and other sectors of B.C.'s economy. These included appointing an expert panel and commissioning German to do a follow up investigation into the movement of dirty money into real estate, horse racing and the luxury car market in B.C. 

B.C. Attorney General David Eby and Peter German at the release of German's report, Dirty Money, in June 2018. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Cohen says other concrete ideas include: 

  • increasing transparency to the land registry
  • increasing penalties for criminal charges
  • increasing reporting requirements for realtors
  • giving greater capacity for law enforcement to pursue investigations.

"We would never say that there's a silver bullet solution to solving this. It takes a number of steps," Cohen said. 

With files from The Early Edition

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