British Columbia

Burnaby 'demo-viction' rezoning projects advance to 2nd hearing

The city says it needs to increase density to create new housing units

Protesters delay, but don't stop, public hearing

Burnaby has been redeveloping the area around its SkyTrain lines to increase density in the city. (CBC)

Three of four controversial housing projects that need rezoning to be built have passed to a second reading, following a public hearing that was temporarily shut down by protesters.

Burnaby city council met on Tuesday night to hear from speakers on four housing projects in the Metrotown and Brentwood areas, three of which will be built into condo towers up to 41 storeys. A proposed development on Gilmore Avenue was tabled. 

"We're not satisfied with the staff's new policy report on development and housing plans for the city," said Ivan Drury, a member of a coalition of three organizations opposed to the rezoning. 

"It didn't consult anyone who's going to be affected by the evictions and demolitions that come out of these rezoning applications."

Drury said 20 protesters marched into council chambers as the meeting started, chanting loudly for about 20 minutes. He said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and city councillors left the room, but then returned.

When council came back, they heard from about a dozen speakers opposed to the rezoning, said Drury. 

Low-income residents opposed

The protest was the latest in a series of rallies in an attempt to protect low-income housing from redevelopment. 

"Their project is to tear down these old apartments and build for those massive condos. And those condos, the average price is over $400,000," said Sherry Chen, a resident of one of the buildings slated to be torn down.

Sherry Chen lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Burnaby with her husband and two children. (CBC)

Chen and her partner pay $780 a month to rent their one-bedroom unit, where they've lived with their two children for the past five years. 

Advocacy groups say Chen's is one of many families being displaced by development in Burnaby.

"We'd like them to consider a moratorium. Or [they can] say no, this is the current zoning and we're not going to rezone it," said Rick McGowan with the Metrotown Residents Association. 

City wants to increase density

In 2010, the City voted to dramatically increase density, especially in areas near SkyTrain stations or other transit hubs. Burnaby officials say the city needs 2,000 new units a year for the next 25 years to accommodate growth. 

"Over the last 20 years we've been trying to create units," said Coun. Sav Dhaliwal. "We're making a couple of properties available for people to create co-op housing."

According to a report released last spring, 23 apartment buildings were sold in the Metrotown neighbourhood in the previous year — 14 of them were slated to become market housing.

The second of four hearings on the three projects will take place on Dec. 7. 

With files from Belle Puri and Maryse Zeidler

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