Burnaby MLAs dance around Corrigan's comments

With housing affordability top of mind for many Metro Vancouverites, some of Burnaby’s NDP MLAs refused to respond directly to comments Mayor Derek Corrigan made this week about renovictions and demovictions.

At a public art unveiling in Metrotown on June 28, Corrigan said higher densities are needed in order to accommodate the thousands of people moving into the region each year, even if that means displacing renters.

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He said the land closest to SkyTrain is the most valuable in the city. When developers build along those corridors, they pay into the density bonus program, which allows the city to buy land in other parts of Burnaby and offer it to non-profit organizations. Corrigan said it’s important to use the valuable land to generate funds, and hopefully with more provincial and federal dollars, create more non-market housing units.

Metrotown has been front and centre in the demovictions issue. The Metrotown development plan update, which seeks to create “a true downtown,” is expected to go before council this month, but critics like Alliance Against Displacement have argued it will displace up to 6,000 low-income renters.

When asked what she thought of Corrigan’s comments, Burnaby North NDP MLA Janet Routledge chose not to comment on the Metrotown issue. (City council is made up entirely of members of the Burnaby Citizens Association, an NDP-affiliated civic party.)

“Wednesday I was in Victoria in the legislature and that’s what I was concentrating on. I’m not in a position at this point to comment on what the mayor said.”

Instead, she told the NOW the New Democrats plan to make life more affordable for British Columbians, including giving renters a yearly $400 rebate, fixing loopholes in the Residential Tenancy Act and building 114,000 new rental, social and co-op housing units across the province.

Raj Chouhan, longtime NDP MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds, didn’t speak specifically to Metrotown, but said B.C. doesn’t have enough affordable housing.

“Our government will be working very closely with the municipalities, utilizing the government’s land to build more affordable housing,” he said. “We’ll make sure nobody is left behind.”

Chouhan, who said it’s too early to say if he’ll be tapped for a cabinet position, added all three levels of government need to work together to build up the housing supply.

“We need everybody to participate in that,” he said.

Anne Kang, NDP MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake and former Burnaby city councillor, agreed and said her team will be “hitting the ground running.”

“We are going to be making sure there is affordability for all British Columbians and not just the top two per cent,” she said. “I have absolute faith that John Horgan will be a champion in this.”

Katrina Chen, NDP MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed, did not reply to a request for comment by press deadlines.

On Thursday, Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon announced she asked B.C. NDP leader John Horgan to form government, shortly after Premier Christy Clark lost the non-confidence vote.

Horgan is expected to appoint a cabinet in the next couple of weeks. Once the legislature is called back, the government will present a throne speech and a budget.

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