In a red-hot Vancouver real estate market fueled by foreign home buyers, an Asian tycoon has vowed to offer his new condos to local residents first after emerging victorious in a long-standing court battle with one of Canada’s largest developers, Concord Pacific.
In addition, Oei Hong Leong, the Singapore-based magnate, has promised to donate about $5 million awarded to him earlier in special costs, to British Columbia’s front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19, should he get paid.
“My philosophy is local input, local needs and local buyers first,” Oei told New Canadian Media, after a B.C. Court of Appeal rejected claims by rival developer, Concord Pacific, on Jan. 18
In the 2-to-1 ruling, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld an earlier judgment by then B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Voith, who found that the senior management of Concord Pacific were “egregiously dishonest” in their dealings with Oei.
The latest majority judgement summary said Justice Voith’s “findings are rooted in the evidence” presented during the trial. Mr. Justice David C. Harris and Madam Justice Gail M. Dickson dismissed Concord’s appeal, while Madam Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein dissented.
In a statement to NCM, Concord said it intends to seek leave to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“In today’s decision, the majority judges found insufficient legal grounds to interfere with the trial decision, reflecting on the high degree of deference afforded by appellate courts in contract cases,” the statement reads.
“However, a strong dissent also noted that the majority’s decision ‘could have an enormous impact on the business community’ by rendering it impossible, or at the very least too uncertain, to undertake complex transactions in the manner the parties sought to do in this case, with a narrow initial agreement that contemplates future agreements. The dissent called the result ‘untenable.'”
Concord said it is naturally disappointed with the result of the appeal.
“Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this legal dispute, Concord’s hope is that development of the Plaza of Nations site will soon proceed in the interests of the community at large,” the developer said.
Plaza of Nations
Today’s judgment stems from a long-standing legal dispute between Oei and Concord president, Terry Hui, over a 4.16-hectare site known as the Plaza of Nations in False Creek, which is one of the most valuable remaining developable pieces of waterfront property in downtown Vancouver, valued at over $800 million today.
Oei’s vision for his Plaza of Nations land is a waterfront neighbourhood of terraced buildings of up to 30 storeys including a community centre, a child-care facility, and a gradual amphitheatre for cultural and performing art events. It will also have 380 units of social housing, a seawall and extensive public spaces suitable for events and festivals, retail stores, restaurants, cafes and breweries, with a pedestrian bridge linking the area to the neighbouring Rogers Arena and BC Place Stadium.
The development project, called Expo Gardens, is in the final stages of permitting at Vancouver City Hall.
“The people of False Creek are helping me develop this project and I want to build something iconic in Vancouver for Vancouver — something that would reflect the green feel of this beautiful city that I love,” Oei said after the judgment was handed down this morning.
Local buyers preferred
His comments also come in the wake of a report by Better Dwelling, Canada’s largest independent housing news outlet, that found non-resident participation in homeownership soared in 2020. The report, based on Statistics Canada data, found foreign buyers own one in eight newly built condos in B.C.
Canada’s Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen has said that he supports a foreign buyer ban, but has not provided any details on how and when it would be implemented.
“I have been watching this case for some time…It’s good to see something good come out of this long standing dispute with local residents getting preference in a market that is dominated by foreign buyers and wealthy new immigrants,” said P.G. Singh, a local housing developer.
For Oei, today’s judgement gives him the green light “to build something iconic” in Vancouver.
“I am glad that this abuse of process against me by a mega Canadian developer is coming to an end…The false allegations against me has been taken down blow by blow by the courts in B.C.,” said Oei, who hopes to start constructing his Expo Gardens this year.
“My biggest capital is integrity. With integrity, people trust you. And the B.C. courts have upheld my integrity. And for that I am grateful,” he says.
“Now I can build something iconic for Vancouver and give something back to this city I love.”