This column is a response to the story: Burnaby city council makes first move in major shift to Metrotown demovictions policies in the NOW.
While I welcomed the news that Mayor Derek Corrigan and his Burnaby Citizens Association council are finally starting to seriously address the issue of displacement for the first time in ACORN’s four-year campaign opposing demovictions, there are some things I would like to clear up.
First, Corrigan would like us to believe that the sudden change of heart on their disastrous demovictions policy was because the city didn’t have the ability until recently to mandate developers to build rental units instead of private luxury condos.
We have been pointing out to them at demovictions public hearings for over three years now that New Westminster is getting developers to build rental units without the law by using disincentives and incentives.
Even then, this doesn’t address the issue of displacement of current renters who will get their buildings knocked down to build new developments.
Burnaby has destroyed 769 units and has another 893 rental units in the demovictions process, while New Westminster has had no demovictions since they started in Burnaby in 2011.
Corrigan also wants us to believe that this sudden concern for the welfare of displaced renters is because of the change of government in Victoria. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Burnaby is solely responsible for land use and rezoning issues which result in people being demovicted from their homes, not the province. This is why we use the comparison of New Westminster in our arguments.
The reality is Corrigan and his council’s fear of being evicted from office is the real reason for the change of heart.
ACORN and our allies massively increased the pressure on Corrigan by organizing a grassroots public opposition to demovictions and created an environment where political rivals can take up our concerns by threatening to replace Corrigan and his council wholesale.
If Corrigan and council had expressed any concern for renters in the last four years, we would have a little more faith that the present mayor and council will follow through on their promise.
How can we now trust them to follow through on these vague promises after the election?
ACORN will also continue to fight to ensure that the current 1,000 or so renters whose buildings are past the public hearing stage are either not evicted, or rehoused in similar or better quality units in Metrotown at the same or less rent than they are paying now.
Murray Martin is the ACORN leader for the Burnaby chapter.