British Columbia

Rental activists rallying at Burnaby City Hall to protest rezoning plan in Metrotown area

Residents and activists oppose rezoning to make way for development projects they say will displace low-income tenants living in eight buildings in the Metrotown neighbourhood.

Activists want comparable housing for tenants in the 8 buildings on the chopping block

On Nov. 19, Metrotown residents with Stop Demovictions Burnaby will rally at a public hearing at Burnaby's city hall to oppose four new rezoning projects. (Alliance Against Displacement )

Activists will be at Burnaby city hall Tuesday night to protest several rezoning applications some of them describe as an attack on the working class poor in the Metrotown area.

Members of Stop Demovictions Burnaby and tenants facing possible eviction are gathering at a public hearing to oppose four applications that could mean the demolition of eight existing residential buildings.

Buildings on the chopping block include: 4960 Bennett St., 6525 Telford Ave., 6444 Willingdon Ave., 4241 Maywood St. and four buildings on Marlborough Avenue. 

The applications are now up for consideration after Mayor Mike Hurley replaced Derek Corrigan in Oct. 2018 and put a year long moratorium on demovictions while forming a housing task force to consider reforming city rental policies.

In a statement, Zhan Dong, who has lived in the building on Willingdon Avenue for 14 years, said developers don't care about tenants.

"The prices are skyrocketing, and we live in fear of becoming homeless, but developers just want to work with the government, not with us," said Dong.

Fear and uncertainty

Cécile Revaux, a spokesperson with Stop Demovictions Burnaby, said the group is demanding city hall not approve rezoning until people are sure they will be able to move back "into the same neighbourhood at the same price."

 All four developers of the pending projects have promised to include non-market and affordable rental units in the new buildings, but Stop Demovictions says there is no legal obligation for developers or the city to house people in the interim.

"They don't have much to offer because there isn't much on the market," said Revaux in an interview on CBC's The Early Edition. "We still feel a lot of fear and uncertainty."

City Coun. Pietro Calendino said the mayor's task force on housing has completed its review of tenant policies and will submit its findings Tuesday night to the city's planning and development committee. He said there were renters advocates on the force and they were "very strong in ensuring we had a renters protection plan enacted."

'Barely any help'

According to Calendino, new city policies that came out of the task force's findings mean tenants must be provided with moving expenses and be given the option to come back at the same rate, plus whatever increases the province's Residential Tenancy Act allows.

Developers must also help find housing in the neighbourhood for displaced tenants before they begin demolition. 

Revaux said, so far, the tenants she has spoken with have had "barely any help" locating new homes and have been shown printed ads from Craigslist with prices above their current rents. 

"'When we meet people on the ground, the situation has not changed that much'," said Revaux.

The group is demanding no eviction notices be sent until every tenant in the four buildings has access to a stable housing nearby at the same price they pay now. Tenants also want the city to force developers to maintain the buildings people are still living in up until they are demolished. 

To hear interviews with Cécile Revaux and Pietro Calendino, tap the audio link below:

With files from The Early Edition