City of Burnaby makes move to preserve rental housing in Metrotown area

Council says it will work with new provincial zoning regulations to maintain affordable housing stock in the area.

Council says it will work with new provincial zoning regulations to maintain affordable housing in area

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

The City of Burnaby has made a move to preserve some of its rental housing supply in the Metrotown area. 

On Thursday, council moved to send back two major redevelopment proposals in the area to include more rental housing. 

The city has slated the Metrotown area for transit-centred densification as part of an official community plan that council approved last summer.

The plan has not been without controversy and has spurred numerous protests. Opponents say lower income residents are being "demovicted" — eviction by way of demolition — from the area.

Housing activist Martin Murray says dozens of residents have been forced out of affordable rental units in the area.

"People are displaced and there is no plan to get them into other places," Murray said. 

But the city is now trying to turn the tide.

On Thursday, approval was rescinded for two rezoning applications for two highrise buildings that would have replaced three walk-up buildings in the Metrotown area.

Council said it wants the developers to consider adding more non-market rental units to each proposed highrise tower — up to half the total units.

The move comes after provincewide legislation passed in May that gives municipalities more leverage to zone areas for rental-only housing.

Since June, four other proposals have been sent back for similar reasons.

Still, some are questioning the timing — especially with a civic election on the way. 

Michael Hurley, who is running against incumbent Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, says affordable housing is one of the city's biggest election issues.

 "It wasn't until Mr. Corrigan was threatened with eviction out of his position that now all of a sudden he cares about these people. I find that a little hard to take," Hurley said. 

No one from the City of Burnaby was available for comment.

With files from Jon Hernandez