Burnaby mayor defends Metrotown redevelopment as “the realities of the marketplace”

Click to play video: '‘No Vacancy:’ the face of Metrotown demovictions'
‘No Vacancy:’ the face of Metrotown demovictions
June 1, 2016:The city of Burnaby is moving to transform Metrotown into its official ‘downtown.’ But the drive to transit-oriented density comes with a human cost – Dec 1, 2016

Amid concerns over the loss of affordable rental in Burnaby amid a development boom, the city’s mayor is doubling-down on a sweeping rezoning plan for the city centre.

“Those are the realities, while we live in a market-based capitalist system we have to appreciate that those are the realities of the marketplace and the realities of property,” said Mayor Derek Corrigan of the loss of older apartment blocks.

Burnaby is in the process of completing the Metrotown Development Plan, a mass rezoning, which would see the already dense neighbourhood become the city’s official “downtown.”

The city says densification is needed to accommodate an anticipated 125,000 new residents by 2041.

But critics say the project and its associated “demovictions” are displacing thousands of low income people from an area that has long been defined by low cost, low-rise rental properties.

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WATCH: Planned redevelopment of the Metrotown area

But Corrigan says keeping the neighbourhood as-is is unsustainable, with most of its affordable units priced at artificially low rents because the buildings are old and in need of repair.

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“So either you’re going to go through renovations of those buildings in which people are going to be renovicted as they move to repair the buildings, or alternatively you’re going to be looking at projects that deal with more density in which the buildings are torn down.”

Corrigan concedes that no one wants to leave their homes because they can’t afford it, but he says prices are going up in Metrotown due to the neighbourhood’s proximity to transit and high real estate prices across the region.

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A draft of the Metrotown plan was developed during the fall of 2016 and, following another round of public input, had been scheduled to go before council in spring.

The city is currently offering no date for a finalization of the proposal.

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