The city of Burnaby is moving forward with its plans to make Metrotown the city’s “true downtown.”
Burnaby city council unanimously passed the controversial Metrotown development plan – a mass rezoning of the neighbourhood that will increase density even further by replacing low-rise walk-ups with highrise towers – at its meeting Monday night.
But it didn’t pass without a fight.
Just before the vote, more than 30 housing activists with the Stop Demovictions campaign interrupted councillors by chanting and blowing whistles and air horns.
Mayor Derek Corrigan immediately called a recess, and he and his colleagues left council chambers.
“People are losing their homes, and they will lose their homes as a result of this decision,” said Laura Thomson, who lives on Hastings Street, north of the Brentwood mall redevelopment.
The protest went on for about two hours. The group asked that the council meeting be cancelled and that the Metrotown plan be tabled to a later date (city council is now on a month-long break). Protesters also asked for the provincial government to intervene and place a moratorium on demovictions.
Burnaby RCMP were eventually called in. After observing the situation for about an hour, police told the protesters they’d face arrest and charges of mischief if they didn’t let the meeting proceed.
Ivan Drury with Alliance Against Displacement encouraged the group to retreat and noted “the fight is in the streets.”
“Staying here is purely symbolic,” he said.
Even though the Metrotown plan has passed, housing activists plan to push their “we won’t go” campaign, where renters are encouraged to stay put even if they get an eviction notice.
“If we can convince whole buildings to break unjust evictions and refuse to be forcefully displaced, that’s a powerful movement,” says Zoe Luba with Stop Demovictions.
Corrigan, who called the demonstration a “bullying tactic,” reiterated that in order for more social housing to be built, the federal and provincial governments need to come to the table.
The mayor said he’ll be meeting with local MLAs in the future to talk about housing and see what initiatives the new B.C. NDP government can come up with.
“I know we’re certainly willing partners. We’re looking for ways to contribute, but we can’t do it all on our shoulders. We can offer up land, we can offer up bonus density (money) but we can’t expect that our property taxes are going to subsidize housing over an extended period of time,” he said. “When you’ve had 15 or 20 years of failure by the federal and provincial governments to initiate much in the way of that kind of housing and you’ve had the influx of people that we’ve had, it makes it very, very difficult to catch up.”
Housing by the numbers:
$58 million: Money secured through the community benefit bonus policy for non-market housing projects.
200: Non-market units two non-profits (New Vista Society and SUCCESS) will build at 3802 Hastings St. and 7898 18th Ave. The city offered the city-owned land at reduced or nominal rates and offset the leasing costs with density bonus money. These units are in addition to the current leases, which support 302 non-market units on seven properties.
390: Non-market housing units at Oaklands, George Derby, Cariboo Heights and the former Burnaby South Secondary School site in the Edmonds Town Centre, acquired through the city’s affordable units policy. The policy seeks to obtain 20 per cent of new units in newly developing communities on publicly owned land for non-market rental housing.
$1.6 million: Density bonus money the city pledged to help the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion replace aging facilities and build new non-market housing at Filby Court (15 new units and a new 36-unit child-care centre).
678: The number of non-market housing units at seven sites under construction or being reviewed through the zoning process.
1,607: The number of units of purpose-built rental housing under construction or being reviewed through the rezoning process.
550: New or renovated secondary suites that have been built since 2014.
496: Secondary suites under construction (or with building permits pending), with 123 built so far this year.
22,679: Apartment and townhouse units under construction or being reviewed through rezoning process.
– Source: City of Burnaby