Here we are – in the epicenter of the ‘mass slaughtering’ of a viable neighbourhood, Burnaby’s Metrotown Rental Community. Many older livable rental buildings, most of them well maintained and in good condition, with 10, 20 or even 30 years of life left… shall be torn down to make room for high end condo towers such as this one, here. In the wake of this ‘mass slaughtering’, many rental buildings will be demolished and 3,000 rental units will be lost. This means about 6,000 people with lower and moderate incomes are facing demoviction from their affordable rental homes. If this is not alarming, what is? 6,000 renters are no longer safe. They are at the mercy of the City of Burnaby.
If Council signs off on the proposed re-zoning plan which is scheduled for later this month, November, the ‘zone’ between Boundary-Grange/Kingsway-Royal Oak-Imperial will be fair game for high-rise developers who are waiting in the wings – and greed gets the upper hand, and Metrotown will be sold to the rich.
It’s so scary: With the stroke of a pen, Burnaby’s City Council can seal the fate of thousands of men and women and children in this neighbourhood – families, single parents, singles, seniors, disabled people, and new immigrants from many different countries. We are a diverse rental community, anchored here through a combination of work, family, friends, social relations, schools, specialty stores, doctors, practitioners, and other services and activities.
If the destruction of this rental community continues, some people will move away, some will be able to afford condos, some will bite the bullet and pay higher rents (that is if they can find suitable apartments at all in a ‘sellers’ market’), but a high number of demovicted renters are facing uncertainty. It is overwhelming when you wake up with anxiety and worry all the time and don’t know what to do and where to go. I know how it feels. I live here and am experiencing it myself.
Stress levels are skyrocketing as we see new developers’ signs pop up in front of lived-in rental buildings, and as we are watching the teardown of yet another building, soon … followed by the sights and the sounds of excavation, trucking and construction activities all day long… “Are we next? And where shall we go?”
Watching the merciless extinction of a village-size neighbourhood is heart-wrenching. How come we are suddenly disposable? Working-class citizens who have chosen this area for its affordability and transit and highway accessibility, contributed to society, added value to this country, strengthened the economy, were avid consumers, paid taxes, raised children and grew older here, all these people are facing demoviction and will be tossed out with no place to go. And temporary couch surfing is not a solution. No one can function without a home!
People are not disposable items – they are living, breathing, feeling beings. Displacement of residents is cold-hearted and cruel and should never happen. The city’s actions are unethical, undemocratic and inhumane.
Sometimes I wonder about the mayor’s legacy. Will Derek Corrigan be remembered as the ‘Bulldozer of Metrotown’ or as the mayor who delivered inclusive solutions for Burnaby residents of all income levels?
The City of Burnaby is taking away what is already sparse, without a plan to replace the 3,000 rental units in the Metrotown area. We need more affordable housing, not less.
Before planning the construction of high-rises in intact residential areas, Burnaby needs to replace affordable rental buildings before even thinking of the destruction of livable rental neighbourhoods. I’m calling for replacement before displacement!
Council does have a choice to stop this humanitarian crisis in the making: they can stop granting development permits right now and yes, they can “demovict the plan.”