‌Burnaby council passes ambitious plan to protect rental housing stock

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      In a bold move, Burnaby city council unanimously passed the implementation of a strategy for rental-only zoning.

      Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley said the plan will protect thousands of existing rental units from demolition as well as to create new rental apartments.

      “This is about ensuring Burnaby is a city with vibrant, diverse neighbourhoods, where everyone feels at home,” Hurley declared at the May 27 council meeting. “This would mean people can find a place to rent that is affordable, and it would give them options to live in all areas of our city.”

      The new rental policy, which was approved at the meeting, is the first of its kind in Metro Vancouver.

      Council agreed to have city staff create a number of amendments to the city’s zoning bylaw, which will be presented at a public hearing before a final vote.

      According to the City of Burnaby, the new approach would create rental-only zones across the city, require a minimum of 20 percent rental housing in all new developments citywide, and allow rental housing in commercial zones.

      The new measures are designed to ensure both replacement and increase of rental housing in Burnaby at a variety of rent levels and affordability, the city stated in a news release, adding that it would also protect rental housing into the future.

      Burnaby councillor Pietro Calendino said that "this is a very bold step in addressing rental housing crisis.”

      “We've looked at lessons learned from other cities and see this as the most secure way to protect rental properties in perpetuity,” Calendino, chair of the planning and development committee, said at the meeting. “This policy also promotes the creation of new, high-quality, affordable rental.”

      Burnaby's mayor and council passed measures on May 27 that they say will protect affordable housing in their city.
      Aria Nasimi

      A “good first step”

      In recent years, more than 800 rental units have been demolished in Burnaby’s Metrotown neighbourhood and replaced by luxury condos, according to the housing advocacy group ACORN B.C.

      The housing advocacy group calls Burnaby’s new rental-only zoning policy a “good first step” but says more is needed to protect existing tenants from "demoviction".

      “The legacy of [former Burnaby mayor Derek] Corrigan’s...horrendous housing policies is going to be difficult to fix,” stated ACORN B.C.'s Murray Martin, who is also a member of Burnaby rental housing task force. “We see this as the first of many steps by Mayor Hurley to make Burnaby affordable and to stop mass tenant displacement that is still happening.”

      ACORN B.C. estimates that occupants of more than 3,00 Metrotown households have been paid to leave their units in the last nine months by developers, despite no rezonings being approved. The housing advocacy group calls upon the city to force developers to fully relocate tenants in the same area at the same cost, and not simply buy them out.

      Meanwhile, Burnaby's mayor said that the city’s rental housing task force is finalizing its tenant-relocation policy recommendations. Hurley promised that the plan will ensure fair treatment and compensation for displaced renters.

      The housing task force recently released an interim report with 10 “quick start” recommendations. It is expected to deliver a final report in July.

      Hurley was elected last year after promising to protect affordable housing.