This story has been updated with new information.
Housing activists and Metrotown renters held a rally, “paint-in” and barbecue on Canada Day to protest the demolition of three low-rise apartment buildings on Sussex Avenue.
A small crowd of some 30 people heard impassioned speeches from housing activists, and from neighbours concerned they also will be losing their homes in the near future.
Some participants painted messages on the exterior of one of the buildings slated for demolition, and hung banners protesting Burnaby’s current housing strategy, and evictions in the neighbourhood.
Saturday was the deadline for residents of 64 units to leave their homes at 6525, 6559 and 6585 Sussex Ave. before the land is redeveloped by Thind Properties Ltd. The developer is building a 14-storey tower with 125 non-market units, operated by New Vista Society and B.C. Housing, and a 47-storey mixed-use tower with office and residential space on the property.
Alaidjah McGlynn, who rents a one-bedroom unit on Sussex Avenue, told the NOW he’s concerned his building will be next after seeing the property change hands multiple times in the four years he’s lived there. He was previously evicted from his apartment on Silver Avenue after it was purchased and redeveloped into condominiums.
McGlynn said he’s ‘disgusted’ by the redevelopment in the neighbourhod, and feels the city has abandoned the people who live there.
“I’m getting the impression that my city doesn’t care about us, and where we live and where we come from. It’s all about money, and it’s all a capitalist society,” he told the NOW.
“When you’re going to make a new neighbourhood, you have to look after people in the old neighbourhood. You can’t just throw them to the wind.”
Eko Handjatmeko who lives on Dow Avenue, said Canada has been different than he expected when he moved here from Indonesia in 2010. Although he says he loves the Metrotown neighbourhood, he’s already had to move when his former apartment buildings were demolished.
Patricia Morenco, who lives on Telford Avenue, says the stress of potentially losing her home has been so stressful she’s spent time in the hospital.
“My body can’t take it anymore,” she said, and that her life “has been destroyed.”
Housing activists, like Dave Diewert of Alliance against Displacement and Stop Demovictions Burnaby, have been protesting the loss of rental units in Burnaby since 2015.
And although plans for redevelopment of the three properties on Sussex Avenue include non-market housing, Diewert says it’s not enough.
“This is not a viable, sustainable response to the crisis,” he said. “What we’ve always advocated for is for the state to redistribute wealth. We need to get rid of private property. The idea that anyone owns private property seems to be the root of the problem.”
With files from Tereza Verenca.