Housing activists decry Burnaby modular homes as a ‘drop in the bucket’

A Burnaby building where tenants were "demovicted" as the city moved to make Metrotown a new "downtown.".
A Burnaby building where tenants were "demovicted" as the city moved to make Metrotown a new "downtown.". Simon Little / Global News

The City of Burnaby is the latest to get a pledge of new modular housing for the homeless from the provincial government.

But housing activists are decrying the proposed 52 units as a “drop in the bucket” compared to the number of affordable rentals being demolished in the city.

The units are being planned for 3986 Norland St., and would be operated by the Progressive Housing Society.

READ MORE: Construction begins on modular housing for Surrey’s homeless

Like other modular housing projects being built around B.C., they will have private suites, laundry, 24/7 support services and health and wellness support.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who has long called social housing a senior government responsibility, praised the new development.

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“We are so pleased to have in this provincial government a partner who recognizes that people who are homeless don’t just need a place to sleep during a night,” said Corrigan in a statement.

“Because these homes will be for Burnaby residents who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness – people who are part of our community, but who do not have safe and stable housing, I’m confident that this project will benefit, not only the people who receive its services, but our entire community.”

READ MORE: No Vacancy: The face of Metrotown ‘demovictions’

But Zoe Luba with the Alliance Against Displacement said both the province and the City of Burnaby have failed low-income residents.

“It’s almost like a slap in the face for people facing displacement,” she said.

“The city for the longest time has used the provincial government as an excuse for why they won’t build any affordable housing. But since the provincial government has changed to an NDP government, we’ve seen over 700 units, I think close to 800 units have started their process of being rezoned or demovicted in the neighbourhood of Metrotown.”

Luba was referring to the controversial Metrotown Downtown Plan, which was approved last summer.

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That plan saw a mass rezoning of the area around Metrotown, which is currently home to hundreds of units of aging but affordable rental suites, to accommodate new condo towers.

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

The city has maintained that the development is essential to accommodate a growing city and allows for transit-oriented density. It also says many of the new condos will be returned to the rental market by their owners.

Luba said if the city was serious about protecting housing for low-income people, it would cease rezoning properties currently used for affordable rental.

The new 52 units will now go to public consultation, with construction slated to wrap up by spring 2019.