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One year later, unions condemn Burnaby's 'downtown' plan for fueling housing crisis

Metrotown Downtown Plan passed last year has led to displacement of low-income residents, critics say
Metrotown anniversary
Alli Massie, chair of SFU's Teaching Support Staff Union, speaks at a press conference in Metrotown on Tuesday morning.

One year after Burnaby passed a plan to transform Metrotown into a dense downtown core, housing activists are as determined as ever to protect affordable rental stock for the city’s low-income residents.

Several labour unions have joined ACORN in calling for a moratorium on demovictions – the process by which a developer buys a rental apartment building, evicts tenants, razes the structure and replaces it with a new building, often a highrise condo tower.

“We’re in the middle of a housing crisis and our members can’t afford to live because they spend more than 50 per cent of their income on housing alone,” said Alli Massie, chair of the Teaching Support Staff Union at SFU.

Massie spoke at a press conference in front of a recently vacated apartment building on Sussex Avenue Tuesday. She said housing affordability is the number one issue for TSSU members.

“Tons of our members live in the Metrotown area ... and a lot of them have been demovicted and displaced or are having to move away simply because they can’t afford the rents that are here.”

The BC Government Employees and Service Union and CUPE 23, which represents City of Burnaby employees, have also called for an end to demovictions.

Burnaby has the third-highest rents in the country, behind Toronto and Vancouver, according to PadMapper. The median rent is $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,260 for a two-bedroom apartment.

ACORN activist Murray Martin said a new initiative from the City of Burnaby’s council to create the province’s first rental-only zoning is not enough. 

He said “you would have to be a fool” to believe the “sudden change of heart” was not related to the election, as Mayor Derek Corrigan claims. Martin said the Metrotown Downtown Plan and rezoning has had a disastrous effect on rental stock. Hundreds of rental units remain slated for demolition following previous approvals from the city.