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Burnaby residents swamped the housing task force because they're desperate

When Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley started his housing task force this year, I was curious how many people would actually take part.
Hundreds of people have been demovicted from Burnaby's Metrotown area. NOW FILES

When Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley started his housing task force this year, I was curious how many people would actually take part.

People like to talk a big game when it comes to complaining about issues, but when it comes to acting on their complaints, some folks don’t always follow through.

Take civic elections, which often have turnouts hovering around 30 per cent despite people constantly being upset with everything city politicians do.

The good news is that the housing task force got swamped with responses during the information-gathering phase.

The recently released What We Heard report summarized findings from the information-gathering phase of the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing, also referred to as Your Voice. Your Home: Meeting the Housing Needs of Burnaby Residents.

There were 2,380 engagements with residents so far, including 1,450 survey responses, a 100-person workshop, 400 people reached by students canvassing the city and conversations with “key community stakeholders.”  

I was especially impressed with the 1,450 survey responses. That seems like a lot.

People laid bare their fears for the future if the affordability crisis. Renters – especially – are desperate and want changes now. It’s no wonder so many people responded.

Renters, who accounted for 33 per cent of survey respondents, were much more likely to be worried about their housing security. Most renters (64 per cent) said they felt they may need to move within the next 10 years due to housing affordability. Only 14 per cent of homeowners said the same. 

And it wasn’t just the number, but the quality of the responses.

Former-Burnaby Green Party candidate Joel Gibbs tweeted a lot of analysis about what the results mean, but this tweet really seemed to sum things up: “There is a resounding rejection of Burnaby's Official Community Plan (OCP) among people that responded. Instead of extreme density in a few areas and vast swaths of single-family houses, people want human-scale, mixed use density everywhere along transit.”

That tweet is a huge repudiation of how former-Mayor Derek Corrigan approached development.

The housing task force still has a long way to go. Hurley staked his reputation on it. There will be a lot of forces putting pressure on council to stick with the status quo.

We’ll see what happens.

-with additional reporting by Kelvin Gawley