News / Vancouver

Burnaby tenants hold sit-in protest at mayor’s office over development evictions

Between 2010 and 2016, Burnaby lost 478 rental apartments, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Destiny and Mercedes Morris took part in a sit-in in the office of Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan on Thursday, March 9. The Metrotown residents wanted to draw the city's attention to ongoing development evictions in their neighbourhood.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Destiny and Mercedes Morris took part in a sit-in in the office of Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan on Thursday, March 9. The Metrotown residents wanted to draw the city's attention to ongoing development evictions in their neighbourhood.

As a wave of redevelopment around Metrotown Mall in Burnaby has swept away hundreds of affordable rental apartments, residents and activists have staged dozens of protests since 2014.

A sit-in held in Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan’s office Thursday focused on the city’s tenant assistance policy, which activists said was not being applied fairly. But it may be more a case of a city’s failure to provide clear documentation that can be accessed easily by the public.

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“The City of Burnaby has a policy they passed in 2015 that says all tenants who are in a position of being demovicted are going to get three months rent compensation. There’s two buildings on Silver Ave. where tenants are not getting three months,” said Zoe Luba, one of the activists.

“They are getting one month compensation, because the city of Burnaby has called them ‘replacement tenants.’”

After the original tenants moved out — and were compensated with three months rent — a second set of tenants moved in.

Some of them were not aware the developer planned to tear down the building, Luba said, and none of them have been offered three months rent as compensation.

But, explained Coun. Colleen Jordan, the policy does not apply when a rezoning has passed second reading; since the new tenants moved in after that point, Jordan said, they weren’t eligible for the extra compensation. The City of Vancouver, which has a much more extensive tenant relocation policy, includes a similar item: vacant properties tenanted after an application for redevelopment has been made are exempted.

But Vancouver, which protects older apartment buildings in several key neighbourhoods, also has nowhere near the number of rental buildings that fit into that vacated category.

The information is not included on the sparse, one-page policy document explaining the policy on the City of Burnaby’s website, something Jordan acknowledged should probably be added. (In contrast, Vancouver’s policy is a detailed nine-page document.)

Between 2010 and 2016, Burnaby lost 478 rental apartments, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation — a figure that’s off the charts compared to all other Metro Vancouver municipalities, which either added units or stayed the same. White Rock, the only other municipality to lose rental units, lost 25.

For tenants living in the Metrotown neighbourhood, an area filled with low-rise apartment building that has been zoned for high density, losing their home is a constant fear.

Jordan said many of the people who have lost their housing are finding apartments in the same neighbourhood.

But with condo development happening at such a rapid pace, those new homes will not be permanent, and that’s leading to a huge amount of stress for tenants, said resident Destiny Morris: “Some people have been demovicted three times — and are about to be demovicted again.”

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