Nfld. & Labrador

New Canadians, mostly Filipinos, snapping up homes in St. John's region

The housing market may be slowing in the St. John's region, but there's a refreshing spike in the number of new Canadians who have been snapping up homes.

'I've never seen this before,' real estate agent Debbie Hanlon says

Turns out that a growing number of immigrants to this province are buying homes, with one veteran real estate agent saying she's never seen the likes of it before. 2:24

The housing market may be slowing in the St. John's region, but there's a refreshing spike in the number of new Canadians who are snapping up homes.

Veteran real estate agent and mortgage broker Debbie Hanlon has sold 22 homes to immigrant families in the past 12 months, mostly to newcomers from the Southeast Asian nation of the Philippines.

"It's such a wonderful experience to be part of it," Hanlon told CBC News.

Mauricio Belga and his young family are the proud owners of a new home in the east end of St. John's. The Belgas are originally from the Philippines, and are part of a growing trend of new Canadians who are buying homes in the city. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"I've never seen this before in my 25-year career … so many new Canadians buying homes."

It's a refreshing trend for a province that manages to retain, on average, just 25 per cent of the immigrants and refugees that come to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mauricio Belga and his family are originally from the Philippines. He took ownership of a home in the east end of St. John's recently 1:07

Observers credit the surge to a provincial down payment assistance program that was established as a pilot project two years ago for low-income earners, and an influx of people from the Philippines as part of the temporary foreign worker program.

"The government is loaning them, at a very low interest, their down payment, which they don't have to pay back for the first five years. So it gives an opportunity for not just new Canadians, but all Canadians the opportunity to become first-time homebuyers."

We have a place to stay, and we can call it home.- Mauricio Belga

Mauricio Belga and his family are originally from the Philippines, and took ownership of their new home in the east end of St. John's just over a month ago.

They couldn't be happier.

"It's a blessing to us because, you know, we have a place to stay, and we can call it home," Belga said.

"We're very, very happy to have this beautiful house and I think this is a blessing from God and the people who helped us to have this one."

A St. John's-based group that advocates for immigrants is pleased with the trend, and Jose Rivera is not surprised that immigrants from the Philippines are leading the way.

Jose Rivera is the executive director with the St. John's-based Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

"This group found the golden mine at the end of the rainbow, with the proverbial golden pot," said Rivera, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrants Advisory Council.

"Getting together and building that network that allows them to find jobs, not easy here, but more effectively."

There are now about 200 Filipino families in the St. John's region, and that number is growing.

"This is a wonderful province to grow a family. Safe. Caring. Newfoundlanders are like ours. They are all about family," he said.

And the trend is not restricted to Filipino families.

Hanlon says immigrants from all over the world, including Africa, Europe, the Middle East and beyond have been clients of hers in recent months.

'They want to know where the schools are. They want to know where their children can go to extra activities.' - Debbie Hanlon, realtor

"What we're seeing now is a wide range of multicultural, new families purchasing homes here in Newfoundland, to build their families and their lives here."

In this new environment, Hanlon said she has to be much more than just a realtor.

"A lot of people are here and they're lost. You have to come in and be more of an advisor or a consultant. They want to know where the schools are. They want to know where their children can go to extra activities," she said. 

"They want to know things about their neighbourhood that may be common to us, but is not so common to someone who is brand new here that hardly knows the language."