Burnaby First Coalition challenges 5 councillors to stop demovictions

Demovictions in the Metrotown area of Burnaby have been in the news a lot this year. The Burnaby First Coalition in an opinion printed in “Burnaby Now” challenges five councillors to stop the demovictions and suggests how they could do it.

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OPINION: How council can fix housing
Janice Beecroft , David Field , G. Bruce Friesen , L. Jey , Charter Lau , Heather Leung , Earl Pollitt , K. Theiss , Helen Ward and Y.L. Wong. / Burnaby Now

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016
– See more at: http://www.burnabynow.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-how-council-can-fix-housing-1.2355855

Our NDP-based BCA councillors have caused mass demoviction and are now even in denial that they have any power over zoning for rental housing. But a complaint to the B.C. Ombudsperson supported by the Burnaby First Coaltion (BFC) – Burnaby’s other civic party – has apparently forced them to follow the law and amend the Metrotown Community Plan.

Their draft plan finally reveals their unstated goal of wholesale destruction of the entire Maywood community, which means evictions for thousands more people, primarily lower-income families. We members and supporters of BFC suggest some practical tools available to BCA councillors.

Each councillor has the same single vote on rezoning applications as the mayor. Property owners only tear down existing buildings with council’s permission to rebuild. So any five of the eight BCA councillors can stop demoviction cold simply by voting “no” to supersize rezoning.

They could also vote to ensure that Maywood maintains its character as a diverse neighbourhood rather than create a gridlocked forest of condo towers. This implies leaving some existing buildings standing, lower heights for new highrises, encouraging more space for jobs in light industry, street-front shops and restaurants. And including community institutional zoning for grassroots community organizations.

To address demovictions already caused, five councillors could consider several options:

1. Fix Burnaby’s bylaw definition of “affordable housing.” Currently it includes any “designated rental units” with no indication of the actual cost for tenants.

2. Insist on one-for-one replacement of existing rental stock: requiring developers to provide equivalent-priced rental suites for demovicted residents in proposed condos. Help developers meet this new requirement.

3. Invest the $35.8 million in Burnaby’s special account for affordable and special needs housing made up of 20 per cent of all the density bonus payments. It was set up by former BCA Mayor Doug Drummond and his council, including Derek Corrigan. For example: councillors could replicate the 27 single-family, owner-occupied, row-houses builtby Habitat for Humanity on Government Road.

This affordable housing was built back when the BCA still respected community-based action in support of local residents unable to pay full market price, in the spirit of NDP founder Tommy Douglas.

4. Release more of the 403 properties paid for and owned by Burnaby residents that the city holds “for resale” (not for parks or roads). The latest city financial report puts their value at $102 million, but that

is a gross undervaluation based on purchase prices from as far back as 1918.

Note: the planning department says it is “the most transparent in the region,” but the city has refused to release addresses of these properties to us upon request. The city sold some to the developers of supersize towers, so presumably they can find these mysterious addresses. For the rest of us, it will take a Freedom of Information action.

5. Undertake genuine public consultation – as opposed to the current predetermined, rubber-stamp BCA variety. This could incorporate creative rezoning which combines new lower-cost residential units with other non-profit, light industrial, or city-owned properties in Maywood and elsewhere.

6. Involve Burnaby in the Metro Vancouver affordable housing plan now taking shape with promises of $855 million from Victoria, $150 million from Ottawa, and $250 million in civic-owned land from Vancouver. The BCA is the only reason why Burnaby is not already part of this effort.

Their talk is “inclusion” and “diversity,” but their walk is elitist, undemocratic, and destructive to our city. Maywood residents fear demoviction from their homes and displacement from our community.

We of the Burnaby First Coalition understand this issue and invite our fellow residents from all walks of life to join us in creating a plan for intelligent, humane redevelopment.

This opinion piece was submitted by members and supporters of Burnaby First Coalition: Janice Beecroft, David Field, G. Bruce Friesen, L. Jey, Charter Lau, Heather Leung, Earl Pollitt, K. Theiss, Helen Ward and Y.L. Wong.

– See more at: http://www.burnabynow.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-how-council-can-fix-housing-1.2355855

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