Astronaut Families

I came across this paper on the concept of “astronaut families” [1]:

…interesting patterns are evolving among wealthy Chinese migrants to North America and Australasia, known as the “astronaut” syndrome and the “parachute kid” syndrome. In the former, a migrant, usually male, will leave his spouse and family at a destination while he returns to Hong Kong or Taiwan to continue his business. In the latter, both parents return to their place of origin after establishing their children with relatives or, if the children are old enough, on their own in their house in North America or Australia. Thus, families are established over long distances, incorporating at least two residences, sometimes more, with one or both parents commuting at regular intervals from one home to the other. The number of people participating in such trans-Pacific networks is not insignificant. Furthermore, the strongly female-biased cohorts in the 35 to 49 year-old age group observed among the Hong Kong-born in cities in Canada, Australia and New Zealand signify large numbers of female-headed “astronaut” households.

Sound familiar? There is this piece from the Globe and Mail from November last year:

A common scenario for an investor immigrant from mainland China unfolds like this, explains immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens: One member of the household qualifies under a category of the Business Immigration Program and posts a $120,000 bond in lieu of making the $400,000 investment stipulated under the program. (Some qualify instead as “provincial nominees,” and follow a somewhat different scenario involving an actual investment.) Portions of the money are divvied out to various immigration advisers and service providers, while the interest accrues to the federal government, which in turn spreads it around to provincial governments—about a half billion dollars annually of late. Essentially, the money is treated as the cost of Canadian entry—although in a further wrinkle, many breadwinners never move to Canada, instead retaining their offshore jobs or businesses as well as Chinese citizenship, to maintain their income stream and taxpayer status in China, which helps shelter income from higher Canadian taxes.

Researching places to live in Vancouver is simple enough: There’s a vast network of expats to survey, and Chinese-based websites discuss favoured neighbourhoods in considerable detail, with special attention paid to schools. Typically, one of the parents, usually the wife, moves to Canada with the children while the husband stays in Asia, coming for visits when he can.

Joanna Waters of SFU wrote a paper on the social and geographic implications of these families [2]. Referencing an article from the Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe:

The [article] concluded … that: “Most ‘astronaut’ families cheat on their taxes…” In these latter accounts, it was asserted that the (often substantial) world-wide earnings of these households are not being declared to Revenue Canada, at the same time as the benefits of English language training, the children’s education, health care and so on, are enjoyed in the new country. Families who choose the Astronaut arrangement, it is implied, do so strategically, exercising a ‘flexible’ notion of citizenship …, through the active manipulation of Canadian immigration policy.

Barbara Yaffe wrote the article in 1994. Waters wrote her paper in 2001. The term “astronaut” family was coined in the literature in 1994, however I know the term was common parlance within Vancouver’s immigrant Chinese community in the mid-1980s.

This blog has recently had much debate in the comments on the so-called “Hot Asian Money” phenomenon, that is purportedly injecting significant amounts of capital into BC’s housing market, most notably the west side of Vancouver, Richmond, and more recently South Surrey/White Rock. While the magnitude of recent capital injections may be more significant than past waves from Hong Kong and Taiwan in decades’ past, it helps to remember recent complaints surrounding migration policies and their often vitriolic undertones are not anything new to Vancouver.

[1] Skeldon, Ronald, Migration from China Journal of International Affairs, Winter96, Vol. 49 Issue 2, p434 (22p)

[2] Waters, Joanna, Recent Immigration and ‘Astronaut’ Households in Vancouver, British Columbia, Vancouver Centre of Excellence, Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis Working Paper Series, No. 01-02

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The Japanese are going to sell their us debt so this is going to hike interest rates which in turn is going to crash property prices even more that never actually were sustained from supply and demand but rather from government intervention. It isn't just massive debt but the masses of vancouver real estate owners that think they made a good investment tat are going to see their investments halve like australia. The Japanese not only have the second most US debt but they also have been overspending way more than they can afford. Good luck with pretending this 200 billion loss is not going to have an impact.



I watch Craigslist rentals daily. I do not perceive a spike of rental activity. It is very easy to find rentals in the eastern and southern burbs. It is noticeably harder to find good rentals in VanWest and Richmond. (Caveat: I don't pay as much attention to condos.)


There was a spot on Global TV tonight about the developer responsible for the Olympic Village missing a mortgage payment on their high-profile development in North Vancouver, called Evelyn. It has now gone into receivership.

I'll try and locate a video link, but for now here's a news story from 12 hours ago:

Real Estate always goes up… until it doesn't.

AG Sage


>“Uh oh bear big bond rally! Rate go down price go up! You lose again bear. Your “savings” gone too.”

Those of us who bought them a year ago are making out like bandits. But you are too ignorant about how bonds work to understand that.

[…] at March 14th, 2011 at 1:34 pm- “My office mate just bought a house WAYYY above his means in Vancouver. He did not come to […]


@I Investor:

"We are talking about hundreds of billions of trade that is going to be put back in the afterburner with Japan primarily focusing on rebuilding."

And rebuilding doesn't involve trade? I don't deny that there will be an impact and I don't buy into the 'broken windows' nonsense about GDP recently spouted by L Summers but modern economies can work through these things.

If you're looking for a fundamental threat to the modern global economy it has to be the massive accumulation of debt in the US. The consumer of the world won't be with us much longer at this rate.

I Investor

Japan is going to have a significant effect on the world economy this year. This is no greece or ireland revisited. Japan till last year was the world second largest economy. We are talking about hundreds of billions of trade that is going to be put back in the afterburner with Japan primarily focusing on rebuilding. USA will first notice the effects when the Japanese sell their bonds to recoup some lost capital from the disaster. Interest rates will go up and then US demand for Canadian goods will diminish. It's going to start affecting us proportionally like all countries that are linked with Japan. The two big countries China and the US. I think this puts a dent and cap on all hopes of a smooth economic recovery. A lot of people don't understand how are economies are intertwined.… Read more »


@DQ: ….after all they are using your savings to make record profits and giving it anyone that wants to leverage themselves for RE……

Fill you boots! I've got a better suggestion for where to get some cash though, and you won't even have to pay it back! Go to the guy that sold you that ESL course and get a refund.


Oh, since it's not new, that makes it ok then.


inventory? please

manna from heaven

Anybody know Larry well enough to ask him for Friday's and Monday's numbers?

Best place on meth

Dailies – List | Sold

Vancouver East & West*

New Listings – 113

Back On Market Listings -0

Price Changes -30

Sold Listings – 50

Vancouver All Areas*

New Listings – 296

Back On Market Listings – 2

Price Changes – 99

Sold Listings – 179

*Attached & Detached – Date: 03/15/2011 Time:17:26 Pacific REBGV. Data believed to be accurate but is not guaranteed.


Gains in house prices are likely to “recede” starting next month as shorter mortgage terms keep some buyers out of an already softening market, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday.

Say what, CREA? But I thought prices were going to keep rising in 2011, and the market was balanced, not softening. With 3 days left before the 18th, now they tell me?!


Hey, something strange is going on with this site. I have the link bookmarked in my favourites and when I click on the link it takes me to the ctv website and a news story from June 2010. The same thing happens when I try to access the site from a google search.


That’s the problem word right there.

I like the phrase "kind of invest". It brings to mind a couple in their 20s saying "We're gonna invest, but we're not gonna do all that annoying research and math. We'll just do the fun parts of investing."


I think Richmond is in more danger from an earthquake than a tsunami, though I suppose they could get both like Japan did. Except that with Richmond, everything would be buried in mud and half-flooded before the wave even got there.

Best place on meth

Huge listing the last couple of days.

No wonder Larry doesn't want to put up the numbers anymore.


@Patiently Waiting:

“It was just kind of a perfect storm. We found a house we liked, we had the money and obviously the interest rates just made sense to kind of invest right now,” he said.

That's the problem word right there.

Best place on meth

@Patiently Waiting:

Ooh, a Tsunami Special from the Royal Bank's mortgage department.

I'll bet that 0.1% rate drop will jump start sales again.

72 hours until D-Day.


@Patiently Waiting:

Worried about Japan? No problem, we’ll just lower our five year mortgage by 0.1%

Of course you know that the rate change was caused by a drop in bond yields, not by some evil bank plot to reel in nervous home buyers. In a perverse relationahip, bad news actually indirectly spurs on more buying here in Van RE through lower rates. Speaking of lower rates, where is Data Junkie and his 'parabolic' bond yields?



"But then they have roughly 50% of these “strange” stores. Anybody strolling in Aberdeen must wonder about them. They are empty, and they have one lonely pretty salesgirl playing in her iPhone, not even “expecting” to make a sale.

The merchandise might as well be a discarded McDonalds toy collection. Pure garbage. 0 buyers. They pop up and disappear regularly."

Probably laundering.They do no sales, sometimes nothing for an entire day, but in their weekly reports to the mall they claim $5000 in sales. The mall gives them a nice official receipt for the commission on their 'sales' and everyone is happy.

Vancouver is awash with this kind of activity.

Uranium Party

Rec property in the Okanagan anyone?

Patiently Waiting

Worried about Japan? No problem, we'll just lower our five year mortgage by 0.1%

"It was just kind of a perfect storm. We found a house we liked, we had the money and obviously the interest rates just made sense to kind of invest right now," he said.

Yep, you'll soon be underwater just like those poor fishermen.