The City of Burnaby remains forward-looking despite the many COVID challenges before us. In this regard, housing remains at the forefront of what must be resolved for Burnaby to remain liveable and to improve upon sustainability through to the city’s 2050 Climate Action goals.
As council decisions around housing can impact the city’s development path for the next 100 years or more, the choices made now must be both well-informed and innovatively oriented.
Accordingly, the just-announced public engagement for new housing in North Burnaby demands we offer the mayor and council kudos for such leadership. And to support this debate, the city would be well-advised to ensure the difficult circumstances currently around us are not limitations on what is possible for future generations.
For example, uninformed suggestions have arisen in the public that higher density areas permit faster COVID spread. What sounds like common sense is completely wrong when real-world comparisons are applied. Let’s consider Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong that have a combined population around 40x times larger than B.C., in only about half the geographic area.
Another way to say this is B.C. is 80x less dense than our West Pacific neighbours. Indeed, even the highest density areas of Vancouver & Burnaby pale by comparison to the massive densities in Tokyo and Seoul.
And even more extraordinary, if B.C. had the COVID mortality rate of these neighbours, rather than 195 deaths across the province, we would only see about 35 tragic losses of life, a near-6x fold decrease. In short, other explanations exist for the mortality rate disparity.
Instead, we must focus on improving housing density as crucial to Burnaby’s future, for both affordability and sustainability reasons. And let facts and best-practices guide our way, which will certainly run straight into the challenges of NIMBYism as the city proceeds with this worthwhile effort.
Joe Sulmona, Burnaby