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Year in review: Housing advocates take centre stage

Newsmaker of the Year
Dozens of people participated in rallies like this one in July, organized by housing activists protesting demovictions in the Metrotown area, making the Stop Demovictions Campaign the NOW’s newsmaker of the year. Housing advocates have argued the new Metrotown plan being considered could displace as many as 8,000 residents.

The Stop Demovictions Campaign was well underway before the calendar flipped to 2016. But a campaign organized by three groups, the Alliance Against Displacement, ACORN Burnaby and the Metrotown Residents’ Association, turned up the heat on the issue this year.

Taking aim directly at Mayor Derek Corrigan and city council over the rezoning of hundreds of rental units in the Metrotown area, the campaign managed to bring attention to the issue and make demoviction a household word in the region.

By May, the group released the report “A Community Under Attack” that looked at the effects of development in the Metrotown area and the displacement of residents from “demovictions.”

The campaign, which suggested hundreds of apartment units are facing demolition in the Metrotown area, called for a moratorium on demolishing apartment buildings and for the city to scrap the new Metrotown Development Plan update. The campaign suggested the plan could displace 8,000 residents from the Metrotown area if approved. 

But it was the occupation of a soon-to-be razed building at 5025 Imperial St. by Alliance Against Displacement that grabbed headlines across the region.

For nearly two weeks in July, a handful of protesters lived in the building until they were removed by Burnaby RCMP. But not before the act of civil disobedience brought attention to the issue, squarely putting pressure on the mayor and council. 

Corrigan noted the occupation of the Imperial Street building was a private matter, but he was quick to blame provincial and federal governments for the current situation. The city also argued thousands of market and non-market rental units had been approved this year. However, the issue appeared to be dividing the Burnaby Citizens Association and the NDP at the provincial and federal levels. Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart visited the occupation site, and although reluctant to criticize council, he said the protesters were doing a service to the entire community by bringing attention to the real problem of affordable housing.

By the end of the year, the campaign vowed to keep pressure on the city and hinted at further acts of civil disobedience that are sure to make the headlines in 2017.