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Burnaby city council is failing on housing issue

Dear Editor, The sell-off and demolition of affordable rental apartments in Metrotown and resulting evictions have attracted media attention.

Dear Editor,

The sell-off and demolition of affordable rental apartments in Metrotown and resulting evictions have attracted media attention.

Globe and Mail reporting on Burnaby’s "blistering" pace of development called council’s rubber-stamp approval process for towers up to 70 stories high a "developers' dream.” Developers told the Globe that Burnaby is "fast” and “easy" compared to Vancouver.

Inaccuracies and omissions in local reporting give the impression that proper processes are being followed and that Mayor Corrigan and council lack jurisdiction.

In particular, a recent NOW editorial responding to an article in Business In Vancouver baldly stated, "The city has no real jurisdiction over such things, and can really only try to help those who have been evicted when their old apartment buildings are razed." 

This is inaccurate.  City hall is not powerless. It controls bylaws, plans and zoning. So it is Burnaby council’s actions and "inactions" that are actually the cause of this situation.

Specific actions and inactions of the monopoly BCA council contributing to this situation include:

1.  Working against tenant interests by: (a) failing to pass “standards of maintenance” bylaws so city inspectors can prevent landlords from them letting their buildings deteriorate; (b) defining “affordable housing” that can be counted in exchange for higher density to include any “guaranteed rental units” - without regard for income thresholds or rental rates; (c) failing to restrict displacement of tenants by allowing demolition of longstanding Maywood rental buildings - which the Metrotown community plan says “should be protected.”

2.  Working against their city's own best interests by: (a) approving 's' (for supersize) "supplemental" bonus density in December 2010 to allow the building of towers up to 70 storeys tall in the four town centres. Avoiding and minimizing public consultation, council used the subterfuge of a “text amendment” and chose the Christmas season for the public hearing.  These cynical tactics ensured that not one person spoke or made a submission on this major change in local development rules; (b) limiting the provision for written notice of public hearings on rezoning to owners and occupants of property within a paltry 30 metres of affected sites, even for tower mega-projects.  And then violating even this requirement by failing to provide a single written notice of the December 2010 public hearing. Planning staff explain that non-notification is acceptable because Burnaby's town centres “are not sites.”

3.  Worsening Burnaby’s democratic deficit by: (a) accepting donations from developers and building trades unions, and voting to advise the provincial government to reject any limits on election donations; (b) using a non-transparent process to pre-designate numerous sites for Comprehensive Development (CD) zoning, a prerequisite for “s” supersize projects; (c) catering to large developers by requiring assembling of properties for CD rezoning despite no such requirement in bylaws or community plans; and purchasing and assembling properties for resale to developers.

Intelligent, “human-scale” development is promised in community plans. Instead, Mayor Corrigan and council avoid public consultation and wreak havoc on vulnerable people’s lives while funding their party with democracy-demolishing donations from developers.


Helen Ward, Burnaby First Coalition 2014 council candidate

Randy Helten, MetroVanWatch

Rick McGowan, Metrotown resident

G. Bruce Friesen, Burnaby First Coalition 2014 campaign volunteer