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Demovicted Burnaby renters to move into new apartments at old rents

Public officials and developers gathered May 13 to celebrate a new rental development that will welcome previously displaced Metrotown renters.
Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley (at podium) celebrates as a rental development in Metrotown is set to welcome returning renters who were previously demovicted.

Tenants demovicted from a Metrotown apartment building will soon move into newly built rental homes at the same rates they previously paid.

Thirty-two households displaced by development at 6525 Telford St. will move into a six-storey, 66-unit rental building at 6521 Telford St., developed by Intracorp Homes.

The renters will officially move in next month, with some getting their keys as early as Friday.

They'll be the first renters to return under Burnaby’s “rental use zoning policy” which requires developers to provide one-to-one replacement units for tenants evicted from multifamily buildings because of development.

Renters have the right to return at the same rent they paid at the time of eviction, plus the annual rent increases allowed by the province.

Tenants under the city’s tenant assistance policy also get their rent for interim housing topped up while the developer builds the new replacement units.

Burnaby crafted the policies in response to renter campaigns in 2018 specifically protesting Metrotown “demovictions,” or evictions due to demolition.

The protests are often cited as an important reason Mayor Mike Hurley won the 2018 local election.

“We heard loud and clear from our community that nobody should be priced out of their neighbourhoods they call home,” Hurley said at a press conference Monday, “and that’s why the City of Burnaby introduced the strongest … suite of rental protections in our country.”

Telford rents

Out of the 54 rental units demolished on Telford, 32 tenant households are returning to the new building.

The city said 49 households were eligible under the policy to return to new units.

The affordability make-up of the building is:

  • 32 units rented at the rate the tenant previously paid (plus the allowed provincial increase)
  • 27 units rented at 20 per cent below the CMHC market median for Metrotown, which is $1,500
  • Seven market rentals: one-bedrooms rented for $2,200 and three-bedrooms for $3,400

All 66 rental apartments built by Intracorp were purchased by non-profit housing provider Catalyst Community Developments, which will now manage the apartments.

Luke Harrison, president of Catalyst, said the cost to purchase the 66 apartments from Intracorp was “far below what it would cost us to build.”

Catalyst wouldn’t say what rents the returning tenants are paying.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing that; that’s private information to them,” said Michael Ross, Catalyst’s vice-president of operations.

He confirmed to the Burnaby NOW the old units rented for under $1,000 per month.

No returning renters were present at the press conference.

Ross said he wouldn’t want to make any renters feel like part of a “dog and pony show.”

“That’s something that we never want to do with our tenants,” he told the NOW.

Catalyst is currently accepting rental applications for Telford on the Walk on its website.

Burnaby's 'most innovative' policy

Intracorp president Evan Allegretto said Burnaby’s rental use zoning policy is the “most innovative” in Metro Vancouver.

He told the NOW that because Burnaby’s policy works through an offset which allows developers to build more market condo homes to pay for providing the non-market homes, the costs generally work out to be equivalent – in a wood-frame building.

But he said the policy struggles when it comes to developing concrete buildings, which have higher construction costs.

“That’s when developers start pushing back on the tenant assistant programs, because there’s only so much they can try to save money on,” Allegretto said.

“But in wood-frame, I think it’s pretty fair policy.”

He said the numbers for tenant assistance are easy for developers to figure out and estimated if the project cost $300 million and the tenant assistance program cost $1 million: “That’s a third of a per cent.”

“The tenant assistance program, on the delivery of housing, it’s really a small number,” Allegretto added.

The development had multiple funding sources: the federal government provided a $12.5-million loan and a $2.4-million investment. Intracorp Homes BC contributed $5.4 million, and the City of Burnaby granted $460,000.

Telford on the Walk’s condo tower sold out in pre-sales during COVID.

For more information on the rental use zoning policy, see the city's website.