Burnaby is well underway in its quest to create a corporation to develop and build affordable housing.
Now it’s time for the public to give the city feedback on the project.
The city is hosting an online open house on Tuesday, Aug. 15, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for the public to learn more about the plan to create the Burnaby Housing Authority (BHA).
The BHA, which has the unanimous support of city councillors, will prioritize expanding Burnaby’s stock of affordable rental housing.
Why the Burnaby Housing Authority?
Ed Kozak, the city’s general manager of planning and development, told reporters at a media briefing last week that a housing authority is one of the best ways to bring developers, government and funding partners to the table.
Kozak said the housing authority would speed up the development approvals process compared with the drawn-out approvals process applicants might typically face at a city department.
He added the development applications that come from the housing authority would be given an expedited approval, while still meeting the city’s development requirements.
The housing authority’s board of directors would also have access to outside capital that the city’s departments wouldn’t necessarily have.
“That independence gives them an ability to be nimble on those opportunities,” Kozak said.
The city plans to endow land to the corporation, as well as use funds from its sizable capital reserve.
Kozak said the project's next steps will include determining what will be endowed to the housing corporation.
The BHA will be governed by an autonomous board of directors appointed by city council.
During the corporation’s first years, the board will include a majority of council members and city representatives “to strengthen oversight of the use of city assets provided to the BHA,” according to a June staff report.
Kozak said it’s still under discussion whether the board members will be paid. Members of the real estate, construction and housing industries will also sit on the board.
Mayor Mike Hurley noted Burnaby has set a target of building almost 6,000 new rental homes by 2030.
He said he wants a minimum of 2,000 units to come out of the housing authority, adding the city expects to exceed its 2030 rental housing target, though not through the BHA alone.
The BHA could also expand to look at affordable ownership housing, as directed by the board and its CEO, though Kozak promised there would be “no intent to sell off public land through the corporation or by the city.”
While the city expects to see the BHA as a corporate entity set up by the end of this year, Kozak said it’ll be at least another year before shovels break ground on the first BHA-built apartment building.
The state of rental housing in Burnaby
Kozak said Burnaby has struggled “for a long time” with the evolution of its identity from a suburb of Vancouver to an urban municipality.
“It resulted in a policy deficit, of not just housing, but of transportation, needing to redo our (official community plan), social sustainability and social infrastructure — all the things that come with a growing community.”
Kozak said 2018 marked a shift in direction “after a long period of stasis with respect to housing.”
The 2018 election saw Hurley unseat former Burnaby Citizens Association mayor Derek Corrigan, whose tenure as mayor saw the loss of more than 1,200 purpose-built rental units, something the new council has sought to change.
Hurley’s election ushered in a clear change in policy direction for how the city deals with rental housing.
That includes “rebuilding the trust with our community around how we develop,” according to Kozak.
Councillors have even begun expressing an interest in building wood-frame rental apartments outside of the city’s four town centres — something that would have been nigh unthinkable under Corrigan.
For more information on the BHA, see the city’s project website.
Burnaby Housing Authority: Public Open House
When: Tuesday, Aug. 15 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Online via Zoom
Info: Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org