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Affordable housing proposal met with 'stone silence' at Burnaby council

Coun. Joe Keithley's motion to send condo development back to staff failed to gain a seconder
Joe Keithley
Green candidate Joe Keithley claimed a council seat in Burnaby - but will an increase Green presence in the region mean anything on the provincial scene?

A Burnaby city councillor’s affordable housing proposal was met with “stone silence” on Monday.

Coun. Joe Keithley, the only Green Party member on council, introduced a motion to send a condo and townhome development back to staff “to see if some accomodation can be made with the developer to include some non-market housing.”

Polygon plans to build a four-storey, 58-unit condo building and 43 townhomes at the corner of Southridge Drive and Byrnepark Drive. 

The City of Burnaby owns the wooded lot, which will be sold to Polygon once its rezoning has been finalized.  

City council was set to vote on whether to send the proposal to first reading and a subsequent public hearing before Keithley attempted to intervene. 

But his motion was not seconded by any of his council colleagues, meaning it was not discussed or put up for a vote.

“I suppose I probably took the other councillors by surprise ... as I was met with stone silence,” Keithley later told the NOW

Keithley said he thought his proposal was reasonable, considering he was only asking for the possibility of non-market housing to be studied.

“It wasn’t like it was scuttling the project or throwing a giant wrench in it,” he said. “If we want to create non-market housing (and) rental housing, then we should be looking at every opportunity that's coming through.”

The city owns three more lots in the area it plans to sell to developers. Keithley said he will push for any future developments there to include affordable housing.

“I'm much more hopeful that we'll actually get some concrete action on this and do something good for the community,” he said.

But Coun. Paul McDonell, who was among those who opted not to second Keithley’s motion, said he didn’t think those other lots were good contenders for non-market housing. 

He said the three lots are smaller and will likely only become home to 30- to 40-unit developments, and requiring a non-market element would likely make them unviable for developers, he said. 

Mayor Mike Hurley has declared a de facto moratorium on new development proposals, while his housing task force works on a citywide plan to improve affordability. But, McDonell said, Keithley’s motion came too late in the process, and delaying the project would have been unfair to Polygon.