Professor Yushu Zhu says we need more transparent information about foreign buyers to figure out the forces driving Vancouver’s heated housing market before we make any concrete housing policies.

Urban Studies, Public Policy, Faculty, New faculty

Vancouver housing crisis more than a local issue

September 04, 2019

“When I moved to Canada I was amazed by the escalating housing unaffordability in Vancouver,” says Yushu Zhu, one of Simon Fraser University's newest professors. Professor Zhu has been jointly appointed to the Urban Studies Program and the School of Public Policy, both within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

“The housing crisis is not only a local issue,” says Zhu. “It’s more about the global financialization of housing that’s happening across the world including Canada and China.”

Born and raised in China, Zhu’s graduate research was in human geography at Sun Yat-sen University. There, she explored the urban migrant enclaves in China that formed after economic reforms in 1979 set millions of people migrating from the countryside to megacities and transformed the nation.

Zhu’s global mindset along with her expertise in housing and community issues in rapidly changing urban settings informs a wider view of the polarizing issue of foreign ownership in Vancouver’s heated housing market. She has heard the claims that foreign buyers, especially Chinese buyers, are pushing up housing prices, but suspects that there are other structural forces at play.

“We need more transparent information about foreign buyers to figure out the driving forces before we make any concrete housing policies,” Zhu says. She plans to study this diverse group of immigrants to get a more nuanced understanding of their housing behaviours in Canada.

Zhu’s future research will inform and shape policies that make cities more affordable and liveable at a time when competition between industrial and residential users for urban land grows more intense.

“The needs of disadvantaged groups—those suffering from mental health issues, refugees and low-income populations—are usually not high on policymakers’ agenda in today’s land-driven urbanization process,” Zhu says. “National policy makers may not consider housing to be a human right. That’s the fundamental issue that we need to address.”