The mayor of Burnaby’s new housing task force is stacked with the “enemy” of working-class renters, according to housing activists.
Roughly a dozen members of Stop Demovictions Burnaby (SDB), an offshoot of the Alliance Against Displacement, rallied in front of Burnaby City Hall Monday evening ahead of a council meeting. They criticized Mayor Mike Hurley for appointing developers, their lobby and a business community representative to the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing.
The new 15-member committee includes Beau Jarvis of Wesgroup Properties, Brian McCauley of Concert Properties, Mike Bosa of Solterra Developments, Anne McMullin of the Urban Development Institute and Paul Holden of the Burnaby Board of Trade.
“No developer, nor their lobby, should be on this task force,” activist Zoe Luba said. “They already have all the power. It's renters who need to be heard on this task force. No task force meant to really address the crisis the neighbourhood of Metrotown is facing should have their enemy sitting beside them at the table.”
SDB members say they were shut out of the selection process for the task force, which is set to meet for the first time next month with a mandate to find short- and long-term solutions for housing affordability in Burnaby.
The activists demanded that all developers be removed from the task force.
“The thought process that got us into this problem is not going to get us out,” said Metrotown renter Stephen Samuel, paraphrasing Albert Einstein. “We have an opportunity right now to have a real sea change in the way that Burnaby approaches the development process and I don't want to see that squandered.”
Stephen says he asked to be on the task force and was denied pic.twitter.com/ogmsEbsmWl— KelvinGawley (@KelvinGawley) January 29, 2019
Samuel said he asked Coun. Joe Keithley in December if he could be appointed to the task force but was told it was already full.
The task force does, however, include several affordable housing advocates.
ACORN activist Murray Martin, who has led many rallies outside city hall in recent years, is a member. Paul Kershaw of Generation Squeeze, Thom Armstrong of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C, Patrick Buchannon of the New Chelsea Society, Kari Michaels of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and Daniel Tetrault of the Burnaby Teachers’ Association are also members.
But even those members shouldn’t come before renters with first-hand experience facing demoviction, the activists said.
“We welcome them to step back so renters can step forward,” Emily Luba said.
The activists said they will keep up the pressure on Burnaby’s new mayor until their ultimate goal is achieved: the construction of thousands of non-market homes rented at or below welfare shelter rates.
“I know a lot of people are passionate about this issue and I respect that,” Hurley said following Monday’s council meeting, “but everyone's going to have their opportunity to have their say.”
Hurley also said he will consider adding more people to the task force. He said he did not hear from members of SDB before appointing members of the task force.
“I could fill this room with people who wanted to be on that committee but they were not a group that I heard from,” he said.
Asked why developers were added to the committee, Hurley said “Well, the reality is they own the property so we have to be in agreement on the way to move (forward). We have to get them to buy in to what we want.”