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Housing advocates rally in Burnaby

ACORN calls on city to protect low-cost housing
Members of the local chapter of ACORN gathered in Burnaby’s Maywood area to protest the demolition of affordable rental apartments in favour of new development. The group called on the City of Burnaby to stop demolition of low-cost apartments.

Members of a local advocacy group want the City of Burnaby to do more to protect low-cost apartment rentals in the Metrotown area.

About 40 people came out Wednesday for an ACORN rally on Silver Avenue, in front of two buildings they fear will be demolished to make way for expensive condos.

“We have lots of members who live in rental apartments in Burnaby and a lot of them, like the ones one Silver Street are relatively inexpensive,” said ACORN spokesperson and Burnaby resident Murray Martin. “We’re worried that none of our members are going to be able to afford these new places. They will be displaced. With the vacancy rate so low, they will probably be forced out of the city.”

Martin said the Metrotown area is a hot spot for condo development.

“Our members are really quite concerned about being pushed out of the city by the City of Burnaby’s appetite for condominium development,” Martin said.
According to Martin, ACORN has 1,300 members in Burnaby. The group would like to see the city restrict rezoning to help stop the demolition of more affordable rental buildings.

“The city saying there’s nothing they can do is factually not true. They can start by not allowing rezoning applications on existing purpose-built rentals,” Martin said.  

The NOW called Mayor Derek Corrigan for comment, but we did not hear back by press time. Coun. Colleen Jordan heads the committee that oversees housing issues in Burnaby, but she wasn’t available either.

According to a 2014 report from the Canada Housing Mortgage Corporation, Burnaby’s number of rental units declined to 12,357, which is 267 fewer than in the previous year.

ACORN pointed to the 2014 Goodman Report, authored by real estate expert David Goodman, which showed there were there were 123 rental buildings that changed hands in the region last year. (That reflects an increase from 94 sold in the previous year.) Most were two- or three-storey wood frame 1960s buildings, and the lion’s share was in Burnaby’s Metrotown area.

“Unlike Vancouver, Burnaby provides an example of free-market forces allowing for unrestricted demolition of rental apartment buildings, and ironically this is an NDP stronghold,” Goodman’s report reads.

There were 23 apartment buildings sold in 2014, and there have been another eight sold in 2015 so far. (See map below.) The overwhelming majority are in Maywood area close to Metrotown, which is one of the city’s largest concentrations of rental housing.