June 23, 2015

A growing opposition made up of low-income families, renters, and grassroots organizations is demanding that Mayor Derek Corrigan and City Council place a moratorium on the demolition of rental apartment buildings in Burnaby. The Metrotown Residents Association, the Social Housing Alliance, and ACORN Burnaby have launched a petition calling for a City moratorium on rental housing demolitions and are urging people to attend a public hearing on the latest proposed Metrotown demolition set for Tuesday June 23, 2015 at 7pm at City Hall or email input to clerks@burnaby.ca. 109 apartment units at 6380 and 6420 Silver Avenue, both three-storey buildings, are up for rezoning to make way for two towers of 26 and 41 storeys.

An on-line petition (hosted at Avaaz) can be signed at https://goo.gl/fjrIVu

Already the homes of hundreds of people in 221 apartment units in the Maywood neighbourhood of Metrotown have been demolished for supersize condo towers. The displaced tenants are low-wage employees, new immigrants, single parent families, seniors and disabled people who cannot afford to buy or rent in the towers.

Out of all regions in Burnaby, the Metrotown area is the highest density area with the lowest rental vacancy rate, and the lowest median income. It also has the highest number of diverse languages spoken at home. Historically, its low-rise apartments have been home to working-class, new-arrived families and people pushed out of high-rent Vancouver neighbourhoods.

Highrises are replacing low-rise rental housing because of actions by City Council. Gentrification is not inevitable.

  • In December 2010 Council brought in rampant speculation and resulting evictions when it voted for massive density increases in Burnaby’s four Town Centres by passing a text amendment to the existing community plan. They did not allow for community input or consultation. The amendment redefined the meaning of low, medium, and high density to allow towers up to 70-storeys.
  • Under this amendment, dozens of towers have been approved or built. Staff explain that they are too busy, although they recently completed a long consultation for its Environmental Sustainability Strategy.
  • Zoning bylaws on building height are routinely ignored. 3 storeys is the maximum permitted at the Silver Avenue site where 41 storeys are proposed. Planning staff explain that height is “variable”.
  • Unlike Vancouver, Burnaby has no bylaws protecting affordable housing, or requiring maintenance of rental building. Burnaby has refused to allow a homeless shelter to support people displaced from disappearing rental housing against being pushed out of the area.

The Metrotown Community Plan states that the low-rise apartments in Maywood “should be protected,” not destroyed. But Council members have called the neighbourhood – which resembles districts in Kitsilano, Montreal, and North Burnaby – a “mistake” and a “slum.”

Did You know

  • Any “guaranteed rental unit” is considered Affordable Housing by the City of Burnaby and does not consider income or rental rate.
  • Land speculation leads to higher rents for everyone in the neighbourhood. The developer paid $38.4 million for properties assessed for $19.9 million. Assessments are based on the existing zoning and surrounding property sales. When property values rise so do rental rates.
  • Metrotown is already the densest community in the Region. When Central Park (86.4 hectares) is not included, Metrotown has121 persons per hectare compared to Downtown Vancouver which has 106 persons per hectare.
  • The Metrotown Development Plan is 37 years old. It was adopted in 1977.
  • Zoning is supposed to protect a property owner’s neighbours. Rezoning needs input from neighbours
  • The City of Burnaby was ranked the least affordable and least accessible on the 2014 Rental Housing Index. BCNPHA, in partnership with Vancity credit union developed the province-wide RHI. The RHI provides a detailed analysis of the affordability of rental housing for various income groups in nearly 100 communities in BC.
  • Demolitions push vacancy rates lower and rents higher.
  • Metrotown’s Private Apartment Vacancy Rates dropped from 16 vacancies per 1000 units in 2013 to 9 vacancies per 1000 units in 2014
  • The supply of purpose-built rental apartments in Burnaby declined by about 267 units in 2014.
  • Metrotown’s Private Apartment Average Rents rose 3% from $981 in 2013  to $1,013 (The average 3br rate rose $1,373 in 2013 to $1,463 – a 6.6% increase)
  • The average rent for units built in 2005 or later is about 43 per cent higher than the overall average apartment rent.
  • Developers gave over $140,000 to the Mayor`s reelection campaign in 2014. They donated about $87,000 on 2011.
  • Renters pay more school taxes than homeowners. Rental properties are not entitled to the Homeowners`Grant
  • In 2011, 18.8% of families in Maywood were headed by a single parent.
  • Wood framed Low rise apartments are more affordable than concrete and glass high rise apartments
  • The benchmark price for an apartments in Burnaby are third highest in Greater Vancouver ($407,200) behind West Vancouver ($525,800) and Point Grey ($619,300)