The City of Burnaby has approved a controversial development plan aimed at transforming the Metrotown area into a high-density “downtown.”
The vote came during a charged council meeting, which was disrupted by housing activists and attended by RCMP members who at one point had to clear the council chambers.
The “Metrotown Downtown Plan” involves a mass rezoning in the neighbourhood, which is currently home to dozens of affordable but aging two and three storey rental apartments.
The change could see those buildings demolished in favour of condos, which the city argues are needed close to the SkyTrain.
In an interview on the proposal with CKNW last year, Mayor Derek Corrigan defended the plan as necessary.
“You can’t have the cheapest housing units, you’ve got in the most valuable land that you’ve got. Metrotown and the land at Brentwood is so valuable because it’s so close to transit. So if you believe you want transit-oriented density, you have to make the hard decisions to accommodate change,” Corrigan said.
Prior to the meeting, activists staged a sit-in and refused to leave, prompting officials to call Mounties.
Advocates left chambers after RCMP officers stepped in and threatened arrests.
Housing advocates said they’ve been negotiating with the city for years, but haven’t had any positive outcomes from city council.
Natasha Sanders Kay lives in the area to be rezoned, and fears she’ll be “demovicted.”
“I think this is definitely a sign of how desperate we are to be heard. I think things could possibly get worse from this, I don’t know. Some people are prepared to refuse to leave their homes once they’re demovicted.”
Rick McGowan with the Metrotown Residents’ Association warned the plan will force the mass displacement of low-income renters from one of the last affordable pockets in the city.
“To keep people in the community you’ve got to make sure you have affordable housing in the area, and right now the only affordable housing are these older rental buildings,” he said.
“The new buildings will not be affordable. People will have to move out of the neighbourhood. And chances are they won’t be able to come back.”
McGowan said he’s not against development, but argues the city has failed to truly consult residents, and is trying to sneak the plan through at the last council meeting of the summer, while many people are on vacation.
-With files from Matt Lee