Housing advocates protest demolition of affordable Burnaby rental buildings

Anti-demoviction banners hung from a property on Sussex Avenue in Burnaby on July 1, 2018. Robyn Crawford / Global News

Housing protesters gathered in Burnaby on Sunday to draw attention to the planned demolition of three apartment buildings they say has forced 150 people from their homes.

The event, organized by the activist group Alliance Against Displacement, focuses on properties at 6525, 6559 and 6585 Sussex Avenue in the Metrotown area.

The City of Burnaby approved a controversial plan last July aimed at transforming the Metrotown neighbourhood into a high-density “downtown.”

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

The Metrotown Downtown Plan involves a mass rezoning of the area, allowing for the demolition of dozens of aging but low-cost two three-storey rental buildings.

Burnaby housing activists claim the plan legitimizes so-called “demovictions,” and is forcing more than 1,400 people from their homes.

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Residents of the Sussex properties had until June 30 to vacate.

On Sunday, they returned to stage a Canada Day barbeque and protest.

Patricia Moreno lives in a nearby apartment on Telford Street, which she says is also due to be demolished soon. She said she’s been given until the end of July to vacate, and that the stress is affecting her health.

“They’re sweeping us like garbage,” she said.

Moreno said in Metro Vancouver’s high-competition rental market, those being forced to move will see their rent jump by several hundred dollars per month — and that they will be battling each other for available units.

“With all these people here, do you think I’m going to find a place for me? Like, affordable place near this location? I like this location because I don’t drive,” she said.

“I can’t afford $2,000 for an apartment. I can’t… where would you get the money? In my head I’m going insane; I’m going crazy right now. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Moreno said the developer sent her a letter with information about applying for help to find accommodation, but she’s not hopeful.

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She said she may end up being forced to move in with her son.

“My son is awesome, but it’s different,” she said. “I just want my own space.”

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

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has previously acknowledged that major redevelopment in the area will force some people from affordable rentals, but insisted that development is needed around transit hubs to accommodate Burnaby’s rapidly growing population.

The city says Burnaby is expected to grow by 125,000 new residents by 2041.

Corrigan has maintained that responsibility for funding affordable housing lies with senior levels of government.

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