Toronto home prices hit yet another new high in the beginning of 2017 as waves of buying frenzy washed over the city. Among these frantic buyers were many Chinese Canadians of my generation who are frantically trying to secure homeownership for their children – many of whom are millennials.
“Home is everything for a family. But given the trend of the property market and skyrocketing home prices, my son is unable to afford a home with his meager salaries if I don’t help,” said Min, one of my friends who came to Canada in the 1990s.
I can totally relate to the Chinese parents’ anxiety over buying a home for their children. Indeed, for most Chinese Canadians, homeownership goes a long way on an immigration journey. It is considered one of the central tenets of financial security and a big part of the Canadian dream. But if owning a home seems as far fetched as the desire for our next generation – without parents pitching in, it was totally an unattainable, beyond reach dream when we came to Canada as foreign students.
As an early flood of students pursuing foreign studies abroad, I came to Canada in my late twenties, with a few hundred bucks in my pocket. With no apparent marketable skills and facing language and cultural barriers, establishing a life in the adopted country presented daunting challenges for us foreign students.
Coming from a life of poverty and poor housing in my home country -- where a family of four squeezed into a tiny 500 square foot apartment, a 2500 square feet home with a backyard, a garden and a garage seemed to be a massive mansion and merely a lifestyle in paradise for the marginalized poor foreign students back then. Occasionally, when I was walking into a quiet, leafy neighbourhood, or visiting a Victorian style open house, I would be fascinated by the vast space, elegant decoration, and immense beauty of the homes. However, despite the fact that the home price was much cheaper back then – with average price less than $200,000, it was an astronomical number and an insurmountable obstacle.
But within a decade, most immigrants of the era, with the powerful desire to turn that fascination into reality, have realized their Canadian dreams. Provided with abundant opportunities in Canada, the hard work and efforts have paid off and their frugality turned out the best financial choice. They’ve become homeowners, living a middle class life – without any financial help from their parents.
What has paved a way for that dream was the confidence, motivations and desire to succeed, rather than a free handout from parents. If we, the first generation immigrants can lay down roots in adopted countries by relying on our own efforts, why not our offspring who were born and raised here? With today’s skyrocketing home prices, it may take much longer for first time buyers to save up a down payment compared to two decades earlier. But the second generation of immigrants possess competitive edges that we didn’t have as their parents– a Canadian education and marketable job skills, and they lack obstacles we were faced with back then – the language and cultural barriers.
We owe our kids a basic necessity, a good education, a sense of self-belief and the aspiration for success, however, we don’t owe them materialistic possessions, and we certainly don’t owe our children an obligation to buy a house. Such a big freebie will fuel their extravagant spending habit, deprive them of the opportunities to achievement financial success and to fulfill their own Canadian dreams, essentially giving rise to a generation of grown-up babies.
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