Posted December 27, 2016
The Burnaby chapter of BC ACORN is continuing to fight the demovictions happening in Metrotown which are fueled by a mass development plan update that is threatening to gentrify the entire neighbourhood. After reaching out to Burnaby City Council for a meeting earlier this fall and being refused one, BC ACORN members persevered –knowing that city council needed to hear their message that the demovictions must be stopped. So instead, on Monday, November 21st, BC ACORN members presented to city council directly. They explained that the Metrotown Development Plan Update will displace thousands of low income renters, preying upon some of the most vulnerable residents in all of Metro Vancouver. BC ACORN members also asserted that the consultation for the plan update was inadequate, as it did not prioritize the voices of those facing potential displacement from the plan update, put the onus on residents to seek out the consultation, was ill-timed and too short, and discriminated against low-income and ESL residents. That same evening, a report on the Metrotown Development Plan Update’s first round of consultation was passed in council, stating that survey respondents agreed with ACORN – respondents expressed concerns about the plan update displacing current residents.
It was at this council meeting during their presentation that BC ACORN members solidified a meeting with Derek Corrigan, the Mayor of Burnaby, directly. BC ACORN members met with him on Tuesday, December 13th and demanded that the Mayor and the City of Burnaby:
1) Stop rezonings that result in the destruction of existing purpose built rental stock, which includes both the rezonings currently in process as well as all future rezonings.
2) Re-do both the Metrotown Development Plan Update and its consultation to prioritize the voices of those who live in the impacted area.
However, it appears that the Mayor Burnaby remains unwilling to do anything to preserve existing affordable rental housing stock, instead insisting that the only solution to the housing crisis is to "let the market deal with it" while building a couple hundred units of non-market housing. A couple hundred extra units is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the almost 3000 affordable units that the Metrotown Development Plan Update will destroy if it is approved.
The Mayor also feels that the consultation process for the Metrotown Development Plan Update was "adequate," despite the many concerns with the consultation that ACORN brought forward. 230 people filled out a survey on the first draft of the plan - out of a city of almost 250 000 - that's a very small percentage of people reached, and hardly what ACORN would call 'adequate'. When members expressed concerns about the survey only being available in English, rather than mentioning any attempts at translation services as city planners had previously done, the mayor instead responded "people have to begin to deal in English if they want to live here." The Metrotown neighbourhood has a very high population of new immigrants and refugees, many without English entirely - ACORN is concerned about where these people fit into the Mayor's vision of a new "downtown" Metrotown.
From there, the Mayor did nothing to demonstrate support for the current residents of the Metrotown neighborhood - instead stating that "if you are a low-income, working person, Vancouver is going to become un-liveable" and that "there are soon going to be no options to rent a $700 or $800 one bedroom near the skytrain." Doing little to instill hope in members, he instead painted a very dismal picture by telling ACORN "we don't owe anything to the working poor under a capitalist system" - of course, a fact members are aware of - but something members assumed a self-proclaimed "leftist, social democrat" mayor would be willing to fight, rather than succumb to. Instead, it appears the real fight for Derek Corrigan is not about supporting low-income, working people, but rather about development at all costs - even if it means mass displacement.
Metro News Vancouver: Burnaby loses nearly 500 rental apartments in seven years in redevelopment frenzy
Burnaby Now: Year in review: Housing advocates take centre stage