Entries from March 2016 ↓

The wall

tolerance modified modified

“Don’t you dare,” she said in a voice, “start your day that way.”

It was the usual. Pre-dawn. Alarm playing Lucinda Williams. Stretch, reach for the iPad and moderate a few comments before waking the dog up. But today there was an issue. In a rare event, Dorothy had actually been reading this blog then, recklessly, she strayed into the nether regions of the comments section.

“I can’t believe you read half that stuff,” she added, “let alone publish it. The least you can do is talk to me in the morning before you start at it again.”

As usual, she was correct. Surveying the digital detritus that floats in overnight, usually from the West Coast, is no way for a man to start a day. Even the wizened owner of a famously pathetic blog with a history of seeking public abuse. Spousal control is definitely in order.

Lately, if you’ve noticed, this site’s been the dumping grounds of a mess of people who blame others for their own inability to buy a house. They’re angry. That’s become hate. And it’s a short trip then to prejudice, bigotry and racism – when hate’s focus grows wider and impersonal. The targets are immigrants, especially from China. Particularly rich ones. But it extends to Syrians and refugees as well. And now to Asian folks who may have lived in Canada for generations.

So the attackers generalize in a way that becomes bizarre. All wealthy immigrants must be crooks, money-launderers or criminals, for example. They don’t pay taxes, or try to integrate and destroy neighbourhoods. They employ slaves back in China, and are importing communism. In the last few days I have allowed comments calling them vermin, insects and scum – giving you a brief glimpse of what I see when I open my eyes to each morning.

At the heart of this resentment, emotion and hostility is real estate. How sad is that? No higher principles involved. No ideals or values to fight for. Nothing noble or moral. Just stuff. Not only does everyone in this country think they have a right to own a house, and in the best of hoods, but they seriously resent the idea all immigrants don’t come here struggling. It upsets the social order.

Well, I get that things have changed. Most countries no longer have walls around them, which certainly helped our nation achieve a higher standard of living than it would otherwise. But globalization has crushed some the norms of the past. Old jobs migrate. Money flits around. People move. Yesterday I gave you examples of Canadians changing the face of Arizona real estate. What came back was a torrent of fearful disgust at Chinese house-buyers in Vancouver. In this country we suck and blow with finesse.

Well, we’ve also hit a wall. I’ve had it.

John, in Ottawa, sent me this: “As a middle aged white guy, first generation Canadian, I cannot believe some of the racial comments posted. I’m sure that if the ethnic backgrounds of the “complainers” was researched, 99.9% of them would have had “immigrants” somewhere not too far up the family tree.

“I have worked with many ‘people born elsewhere’, and each and every one was hard working, and really proud to be Canadian. Each and every one of them thought of themselves as Canadian first, as my parents did. Please keep your blog going, and please, somehow, keep your moderator’s hat on.”

Shortly before his note arrived, I texted my wife about shuttering this site. A comment had just arrived from Vancouver warning that I am “a dangerous traitor and need to be strung up” for deleting racist, anti-Chinese comments or saying immigration is not to blame for the fact everyone can’t live on the Westside. ‘Had enuf,’ I said. ‘Let’s elope.’

It’s tempting. In the past eight years I’ve written 2,283 articles and moderated 412,039 comments. I’ve sold no ads, taken no subscriptions or donations. Made no money, on purpose. The goal was always to try and assist others in their own lives. Most people respond by being respectful, thoughtful, useful. A growing number are, well, assholes.

This cannot continue. And won’t. There are enough blogs and news sites around whose owners don’t seem to care how high the sewage seeps. In a world where it’s all about clicks and traffic, they’ll post anything. But not here. We’re done.

Expect more deletes. Abusers will have their IPs blocked from accessing the site. And, as a final solution, I will email your mom.

If you live to hate people, start your own damn blog. If you want me to choose between this site and my wife, just keep it up.

The aliens

FOREIGNER modified

They came storming in, took advantage of the exchange rate, and started snapping up properties. In fact, local realtors estimate that fully a third of every sale in the region has gone to these foreigners. Their annual investment’s huge – between $11 billion and almost $18 billion a year from this one group alone into residential real estate across the entire country.

They pay cash, too. Rivers of it. The latest stats show a staggering 73% of this group lays down cold, hard currency to snap up these properties. Says a local banker trying to entice people some of these non-residents to take on mortgages: “I think that whole mentality of borrowing is what’s in the way. They say, no, we’d rather pay cash, we pay cash for everything. On one side, good for you, and on the other side, are you kidding?”

And the impact on local real estate has been palpable, lifting sales prices and pretty much guaranteeing an active market – at least until recently.

Chinese dudes pillaging Vancouver and victimizing the natives?

Nah. Canadians. And in places like Arizona and California, where one in three houses in many areas have gone to beaver-loving, maple-drenched, hockey-crazed Canuckistan residents, there seems to be no resentment at all. Until now. Because the Canadians have stopped hoovering real estate.

“They’re not buying. Our Canadian buyers are not buying,” a Palm Springs realtor moaned to The Desert Sun paper a few days ago. “This was the perfect storm for the desert, and that’s why our real estate right now is in a bit of a slump.”

If you happened to come by this pathetic blog five years ago when the Canadian dollar was siting a few cents above the US currency, you might have been shocked. I was exhorting people to load up on residential real estate – but not in this country. It was an historic opportunity, with the loonie solidly above par and yet many American housing markets still near GFC-lows. You may remember that houses in some area codes of Phoenix and Vegas gave up as much as 70% of their value during the credit crisis, and took a very long time to recover.

So, the blog-that-know-no-shame said, if you ever dreamed about your own place amid the tumbleweeds and the rednecks, dudes, this is it.

And it was. Since then two things have happened.

First, US house prices have steadily recovered from the debt-pickled, subprime blow-off. So the average Vegas house price has increased over the last four years by 79.8%. (And you thought just Vancouver was demented.) Of course, you can still buy a great house in the Nevada city for the price of a garage in Kits. Ditto in Arizona, where houses have gained (on average) 77.5% since the spring of 2012.

Thus, if you bought then, you’ve made a bundle.

But it gets better. Our dollar has collapsed. From an average of $1.02 US in 2012, we have descended into the 70-cent range along with oil and Justin Bieber. So, if you decided to bail on your home in the Arizona sun, you might expect to have a humongous currency appreciation on top of your almost-80% price gain. Sweet. And you thought reading this blog was all about dog love, monetary policy and making fun of Millennials.

Well, a lot of Canadians have decided to do just that – sell. The annual inflow of northern money into southern houses has crumpled by 41% over the last five years, concurrent with the dollar rising and oil falling.

The result, reports the Cali media, is scary: “In the desert, home prices have fallen and the number of homes on the market has spiked. Coachella Valley homes sold for a median price of $283,000 in February — by far the lowest of the winter selling season, according to real estate research firm CoreLogic DataQuick. And inventory jumped by about 25% year-over-year.”

See what happens when the foreigners start to retreat? It gets ugly.

Remember that.