Stop Metrotown’s Legislated Demovictons!
New Burnaby rezoning adds “non-market” to development industry weasel words like “affordability”
The December 12th 2017 rezoning application for 3 apartment buildings on Sussex Ave in Metrotown, if approved, will tear down 62 units of low-end of market purpose-built rental housing, spread across three two storey walks ups: 6585 Sussex, 6525 Sussex and 6559 Sussex avenue. These units typically house at least two, if not up to five people – meaning this project will displace approximately 130 people from their community. The Sussex rezoning is the first in what will be a rapid onslaught of demovictions following the Corrigan Council’s unanimous July passage of the Metrotown Downtown Plan – a gentrification scheme that is focused on turning the entire neighbourhood into luxury condominiums, displacing over 6000 renters in the process.
The Sussex rezoning is a useful starting point for this demoviction spree for Corrigan’s Council because it includes a feelgood smokescreen. In an interview with the Burnaby Now, Mayor Corrigan said, “This kind of idea that’s painted out there of the rapacious developer really isn’t the case when you see a developer working like Mr. Thind has, with both the New Vista Society, the provincial government and the City of Burnaby to ensure this project was there and available to be utilized as part of his overall development.” An op-ed in the Vancouver called this project “a Metrotown solution to our affordable housing crisis” and claimed (without sourcing a single resident) the project makes “100 long-time residents facing eviction, the developer, B.C. Housing and the City of Burnaby all happy.” But does the non-market housing at Sussex really indicate a shift in Burnaby or BC’s approach to housing? Is it evidence of developer magnanimity? Is it a solution to our housing crisis?
What kind of non-market housing is this?
Although 327 market rental units and 125 non-market units are being proposed in this rezoning, overall there will still be a reduction in units at the low-end of or below market rates.The 125 non-market units – housed in a separate tower than the market condos – will include 60 units at BC’s “Housing Income Limits (HIL)” rates – which is $45,000/year for a 1 bedroom apartment. These units guarantee that you must not spend more than a third of your income on rent, which means that, because these units are not subsidized, to qualify for a one bedroom apartment, your income must be $3775/month, making your rent $1275/month. This form of non-market housing ends up being more expensive than current units are renting at in the buildings!
The remaining 60 non-market units will be at some level of subsidy, but those subsidies will depend on money generated by the HIL-rate units, not from dedicated or secure funding from BC Housing. New Vista says they have not received an offer of operating money from BC Housing so they don’t know how much the subsidized units will rent for; they said they’re hopeful it will be something like $800-900/mth. An article in the Vancouver Sun makes the unsubstantiated claim that New Vista will house displaced residents in other projects in the interim and then in the non-market units. But New Vista says they were not contacted for this article, and that they typically have 4 to 8 empty units at any time; not nearly enough to house people displaced by this rezoning. Residents have not been approached about moving into non-market housing, most cannot afford HILs rent rates, and no one knows how much the subsidized units will rent for. It seems like the non-market housing is being used as a PR smokescreen by the developer and City, not as an actual housing option for affected people.
The Sussex tower will also contribute to the cultural and economic gentrification of Metrotown. Metrotown is a community of low to moderate income people, some on fixed income, including new immigrants, indigenous people, young families, seniors and people with disabilities. Bringing in 300 wealthy new residents who can afford these new housing developments will drastically change the feel and profile of the neighbourhood, adding to the recent trend of renovictions in old apartment buildings. It is already evident in street level retail gentrification; new businesses geared towards a higher-income clientele are going up along Beresford street – these fancy french pastries are for the rich, not current residents. This new development will still contribute to the loss of our community, our neighbourhood – a place where people truly feel at home.
The truth about Corrigan’s “non-rapacious developer” Thind Properties
Thind Properties Ltd was the largest donor to Derek Corrigan and the NDP-affiliated Burnaby Citizen Association in the 2014 Burnaby Civic Election; donating $21,125 to the party. Mayor Corrigan’s endorsement of Thind as evidence that developers are non-“rapacious” displacers seems bought and paid for, and also disingenuous. Although this project is described as a partnership between New Vista Housing Society, B.C. Housing and Thind Properties Ltd, Thind Properties is contributing no money towards the non-profit housing units.
The City of Burnaby had the power to demand anything of Thind in exchange for the height and density bonus they will receive to develop a site zoned at 30 feet as a massive 520 foot tower. However, instead the City bought a parcel of land from Thind for $5.6Million and will lease the land to BC Housing, which will provide construction and operating costs. Thind is not producing the non-market housing on Sussex but Corrigan is giving them credit in order to disarm critics of the demoviction of Metrotown.
The BC government must intervene to stop Municipally legislated evictions
There is a direct connection between the growing number of visible homeless in the province and policies like those of Burnaby City Council which allow for the mass displacement of working class and low-income communities. To really address this crisis, we need a two-pronged strategy that includes long term solutions for currently homeless people and protects those at risk of homelessness from losing their housing in the future. Municipalities like Burnaby are making the housing and displacement crisis worse by destroying low-end of market apartment buildings for short term economic gain. We are calling on the new BC NDP government to intervene and stop the legislated eviction of Metrotown by:
- Passing emergency legislation to declare purpose-built rental apartments everywhere in BC a protected housing stock and outlaw all renovictions and demovictions.
- Social housing now! Opening 10,000 units of emergency modular housing immediately to replace homeless shelters throughout BC and immediately beginning to build 10,000 units of a range of permanent non-market housing including social and co-op housing to end the crisis of evictions, unaffordability, and homelessness created by the profit-driven real estate industry.