September 20th Presentation to Burnaby City Council: By Wanda Mulholland
Mayor Corrigan, City Councilors, City of Burnaby employees:
Hello, my name is Wanda Mulholland. I am the Coordinator for the Society To End Homelessness In Burnaby.
In 2005 homelessness was considered by Burnaby citizens to be an issue specifically for the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. At that time citizens did not realize that there were Burnaby people living in extreme poverty and homelessness. The City of Burnaby 2011 Social Sustainability Report states that poverty is a serious issue confronting some residents of Burnaby, many of whom are increasingly challenged in accessing basic life necessities. Almost 20% of Burnaby households had incomes below $20,000 in 2005. An Angus Reid Poll commissioned by the Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness in September 2012 found that one-in-four (23%) people surveyed in the Lower Mainland know someone who is currently homeless or has been homeless during the past five years.
Burnaby citizens began subsequently to realize that their neighbours, friends and relatives were challenged with homelessness and requested assistance for people that they cared about. No longer was homelessness only happening to other unknown people. Over the past few years, the general public has frequently expressed their anger that so many Burnaby people are losing their homes due to demolitions. Specifically identified in the concern is the Metrotown area.
Increasingly citizens are fearful that their own housing – both rental and owned – may be lost, and that they will be forced to move, and be faced with the grim reality of trying to find affordable housing in Burnaby. What has most recently been evident is that Burnaby citizens in their fear and anger about housing security are blaming the loss of housing on newcomers to the area, people from other ethnic origins, demonstrating racism and judgment.
The housing crisis is growing. The unrest and anger from citizens is increasing. The numbers of Burnaby people displaced from their homes is increasing. The trauma, uncertainty and hopelessness facing people at risk of homelessness is increasing. We urge the City to create bylaws and/or zoning that protect affordable housing – e.g. rent controls, one-for-one replacement policies and maintenance bylaws, as well as bylaws that encourage the building of new housing that is affordable to those living on low fixed incomes. The City could dedicate city owned land for social housing and advocating to senior levels of government to build that housing, create bylaws dedicating a percentage of new housing to be affordable, or require developers to direct required community amenity funds into creating affordable housing units.
The city could continue to actively advocate to the provincial government for enabling legislation so that the municipality can protect and increase the numbers of affordable housing units.
The Society To End Homelessness In Burnaby is concerned about the impact of the continued loss of affordable housing for vulnerable Burnaby citizens.
The Society believes that collaboration between all three levels of government is the only way to create viable housing solutions for vulnerable Burnaby citizens.