Burnaby 'demoviction' protesters continue fight for affordable housing

Protesters occupying a building slated for redevelopment in Burnaby, B.C., are renewing their call for affordable housing as the building approaches its demise.

Mayor Derek Corrigan says the federal and provincial governments need to renew long-gone funding

Protesters in Burnaby, B.C., have been occupying a building on Imperial Street since July 9. (Simon Charland/CBC)

Protesters occupying a building slated for redevelopment in Burnaby, B.C., are renewing their call for affordable housing as the building approaches its demise. 

"I hope the politicians, you know, do something or take it serious," said a man who has been living in the building who referred to himself only as Mohammed. 

"These are people, they are not trash on the street. They're being treated like trash."

The protesters have occupied the building at 5025 Imperial Street since July 9. They previously told CBC the developer, Amacon, would begin removing hazardous materials last Monday to prepare for demolition in August. 

The company has obtained a court injunction to clear out the group, which is operating under the name Alliance Against Displacement

A protester who has been occupying the building on Imperial Street says he has been fed and taken care of since he moved in. (CBC)

'Precaurious housing situations'

Dave Diewert with the group said one of the evicted tenants was a 90-year-old woman who had lived in the building for 18 years.   

"Clearly the demovictions of people out of these places is a cause of homelessness. It pushes people into very precarious housing situations," Diewert said. 

Dave Diewert with the group Alliance Against Displacement says demovictions put people in precarious housing situations. (CBC)

"​We're not arguing for a homeless shelter. We're arguing that we have homes for people and we're destroying the ones that we have already."

Diewert said 234 units of housing are slated for redevelopment on that block of Burnaby alone.

Province, feds need to step up: mayor

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told On the Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko he shares the protesters' frustration. 

"The reality is ... mayors right across the country have been incredibly frustrated with the lack of resources and social housing both by the federal and provincial governments," said Corrigan.

"Most of the focus goes on local government because we're the government closest to the people, and they seem to get a free ride."

Corrigan said social and affordable housing funding dried up 20 years ago, and cities have few income sources to adequately address the issue. 

Affordable housing a 'bleeding wound'

"We're stretching everything that we can do to provide whatever assistance we can but it's not enough," he said. "It's a Band-Aid on a problem that is now a bleeding wound."

The city collects money from the amenity bonus fund developers pay when rezoning a building, Corrigan said, adding that the city has also bought land and offered it to non-profits for them to build 90 units of social housing. 

But Corrigan said the low-cost buildings in the Metrotown area that are slated for redevelopment were rezoned for high-rises in 1989.

"We don't have the power to stop demovictions," he said, referring to buildings that developers feel are no longer economically viable. 

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the RCMP had obtained an injunction to evict the protesters. In fact, the injunction was obtained by the company.
    Jul 20, 2016 3:23 PM PT