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Get to know Burnaby council candidates: Maita Santiago

“Housing is integral to building strong communities.  It’s what anchors us and can determine where we work, where our kids go to school and how we spend leisure time.”
MaitaSantiago_Council
Maita Santiago, Burnaby Citizens Association, is running for Burnaby city council in the upcoming October election.

Burnaby will head to the polls on Oct. 15 and vote for eight city councillors and seven school trustees. Mayor Mike Hurley has been acclaimed for a second term after receiving no challengers. 

The Burnaby NOW asked every candidate running for office in the upcoming civic election to respond to a questionnaire on issues facing Burnaby today.

Candidates were given strict word limits and a deadline to submit their answers. Answers exceeding the word limits are marked. For details on how and where to vote, see our voter’s guide.

Questionnaires have been edited for clarity.

Name: Maita Santiago

Current occupation: Front-line community service provider

Short biography (50 words maximum): I was born in the Philippines and am a mother of two, a front-line community service provider, a small business owner and longtime resident of Burnaby. I was a member of Burnaby city council’s social issues committee and have spent almost my whole working life advocating for everyday people.

Why are you running for city council? (150 words maximum): I’m running because I love Burnaby, and I care about the people in it.  Burnaby is a well-run city that is a wonderful place to live, thanks to the leadership of the BCA for many years. It has beautiful parks, accessible transit and services that we can count on.

I believe Burnaby is on the right track, but we need to do more.

I’ve heard from many folks about the hard time they have finding a place to live, making ends meet, and coping with the effects of climate change.

I share these concerns, and hope that as Burnaby continues to develop and grow, that no one is left behind. I’m also running to bring more diversity to city hall.  It’s important to ensure that city council represents the people it serves to ensure the interests of the broadest number of residents are met.

What are the top three issues facing Burnaby today, and what are your plans to address them? (250 words maximum): The top three issues are affordable housing, basic services and climate change.

Housing is integral to building strong communities.  It’s what anchors us and can determine where we work, where our kids go to school and how we spend leisure time. 

We need to protect renters and build new housing where and how it makes sense. 

I’ll work with my colleagues on council to create a range of housing options that include more purpose-built rentals and missing middle housing.  The city can also explore working further with co-ops, non-profits and other organizations to develop housing units that are affordable.  

Burnaby is one of Canada’s well-run cities and people enjoy living here because it has services we can count on. 

During these times of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that we get the basics of running a city right – while maintaining among the lowest tax rates and healthiest city surpluses in the region.  The BCA has proven repeatedly it does just that, and this is important as our city continues to grow.   Now is not the time to gamble with our future.

Burnaby leads in the green transition and in the creation of good, local jobs.

Measures we can take include ensuring the city develops in ways that reduce the impact on climate.  This means examining building design, encouraging creation of local jobs and improving public infrastructure to make sidewalks, transit and cycling safe options for people. 

What is your housing situation? Are you a homeowner, renter or something else (describe)? Do you rent property to others? (50 words maximum): When my parents downsized, my family was able to buy their home while my parents moved into our nearby condo.  They’ve since moved on, and we now rent our condo to another family.

Burnaby currently has a population of about 250,000 people and is projected to grow to about 360,000 by 2050. How – and where – do you want the city to accommodate that growth? (200 words maximum): It’s important that we accommodate growth where and how appropriate.  Burnaby currently encourages growth in urban villages and four town centres.

It’s good policy to encourage housing, businesses, public amenities and infrastructure in these areas because it creates an opportunity for residents to work, study and play close to where they live. 

By building up, we also provide housing that fits the needs of some Burnaby residents (downsizers, young people, small families, workers) who want to be close to public transit, commercial establishments, services and other amenities.  As well, this would help ensure the preservation of Burnaby’s farmlands and industrial areas which are also integral to having a strong local economy and food security.

I also support the development of multi-family housing when and where appropriate so there are also opportunities for residents to, for example, age in place or for young families to live in walkable neighbourhoods close to parks.

As Burnaby continues to grow, my priority is to make sure as we do develop, that no one is left behind.

Some organizations are calling on municipal governments to support the creation of non-profit housing by allowing projects to be built without rezoning requirements. (As an example, Women Transforming Cities wants social housing initiatives of up to 12 storeys to be permitted in multi-family areas and up to six storeys in other residential areas, without a rezoning requirement). Is this something you would support – why or why not? (250 words maximum): I support the creation of housing developments by non-profits.  Along with all levels of government and other stakeholders, they’re an important partner for the city when it comes to creating affordable housing units for the most vulnerable in our society. 

Rezoning is important because it gives the city the chance to examine how a project might impact a particular community, and it gives the public the chance to express its views on a project.  As well, it allows the city to ensure that the infrastructure needed to support a project, and the people it will house, are available and accessible.

These are important steps that need to be undertaken to make sure that developments in our city occur in a way that is most beneficial for everyone who may move into a project and for everyone that already lives near it.

I support the possibility of the city pre-zoning sites to help potential non-profit housing projects.  This way, there could be a reduction in the time and expense that a rezoning process might usually entail. 

In 2021, 73 people died in Burnaby due to the heat dome. What are your plans for the city to address increasing heat? (150 words maximum): We’re in a climate crisis and it’s important that the City of Burnaby takes action to protect its residents.

There are immediate and longer-term responses the city can take to address the increasing heat.  Examples of immediate measures are working in partnership with other levels of government to ensure residents have the means to cope with the heat (e.g. through the provision of electric fans, air conditioning units, accessible cooling centres etc.).  

Longer-term responses include continuing the development of urban villages that are dense with mixed residential and commercial uses, accessible transit, walkways and public parks and amenities. 

These types of development may also be conducive for the development of alternative energy sources for a neighbourhood and the result is a low-carbon and vibrant neighbourhood.

Ensuring our public infrastructure makes walking, taking transit or cycling more accessible and safe also helps address climate change. 

Is crime a concern for you, and how do you hope to address it? (150 words maximum): It’s important that Burnaby residents feel safe and secure in their homes and in their neighbourhood.  Part of what can contribute to that feeling of security is knowing who our neighbours are and feeling connected to our community.

Through our schools, community centres, non-profit organizations and city-led initiatives, we can provide ways for residents to get to know each other so they can establish the social connections needed for one to feel safe, welcome and included in their community. 

This can contribute to their sense of well-being and also safety in knowing they have folks they can turn to when they need help.

What is the biggest achievement and/or failure of Burnaby council in the last four years? (100 words): While the City of Burnaby achieved much in terms of housing the last four years – there is more to do with regards to diversity and inclusion.

Burnaby is among Canada’s most diverse cities, but our city council does not reflect this.  To ensure we have effective policies that meet the needs of our residents, we need councillors with the lived experience that our constituents share.   

In this way, we ensure our city is one of the most vibrant and inclusive in the region and is a place where everyone feels welcome, included and heard.

How would you spend a leisurely 24 hours in Burnaby? (150 words maximum): One of the things I enjoy about Burnaby are its parks, trails and bodies of water.

A leisurely day would be spent going on a walk with my family around Deer Lake or a bike ride around Central Park.  This would be after watching my son’s morning soccer game and a visit with my dad at his care home or with mom and my step-dad at their condo.

A great day would also include time on the water at Deer Lake or Barnet Marine Park – either on a pedal boat, canoe or kayak. I recently learned how to kayak through a City of Burnaby program and it was absolutely amazing.  It’s something I’d like to spend more time doing. 

Then in the evening, my family and I would enjoy walking to one of the local restaurants for dinner with a stop at a local dessert place on the way home.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters? (100 words maximum): I first moved to Burnaby from the Philippines in 1977. I grew up in the Lower Mainland and returned to Burnaby to raise my own family in 2008.

Whether it’s through my community organizing, or advocacy with government, or through my services as an immigration consultant, or previously a family daycare owner; I know the issues many Burnaby residents face.

I’ve also been a citizen representative on a city hall committee where I learned how good municipal policies can impact local residents and families. 

I am proud to run with BCA to make a positive difference.

How can folks contact you? (Website, email, social media handles)

Email: MaitaS@burnaby-citizens.ca

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