There is an impending calamity for affordable housing in our neighbouring city of Burnaby. In our Sunday November 20 Issues Meeting, the COPE membership voted to send the following letter to Burnaby Mayor, Derek Corrigan and his Council to urge them to rescind the proposed Metrotown Plan.
Here is our letter.
Burnaby Mayor and Council
c/o Office of the City Clerk
4949 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC V5G 1M2
Dear Mayor Corrigan and Council:
As a Vancouver civic party, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) is writing to urge you to rescind the proposed Metrotown Plan Update (the “Downtown” Plan).
COPE stands in solidarity with the Metrotown residents who marched the streets of Burnaby on Nov 12th demanding the City to “demovict” the neighbourhood plan. The area of Metrotown addressed by the plan is made up of three thousand purpose-built rental units and a low-income, vulnerable demographic. It is one of the most affordable and most densely populated areas in the whole of the Lower Mainland. In a climate of rapidly diminishing affordability and extremely low vacancy rates, issuing a carte blanche permit for the destruction of large numbers of affordable homes without a plan to replace them is irresponsible and unjustified to say the least.
We believe the “Downtown plan” to be discriminatory against the poorest, most vulnerable residents of our region. Many people living in the area in the plan are on the edge of poverty. For many, a “demoviction” is the last push they need to fall into a state of permanent poverty and displacement, at the end of which is homelessness. Furthermore, demolishing buildings that many residents have called home for decades does more than destroying material structures; it destroys networks of survival, which the low-income community rely upon to fend for itself in this harsh economy. Many will not survive without access to this resource.
COPE is gravely concerned with the indiscretion with which the Metrotown Plan treats the impacts of such mass rezoning, which will not be limited to Metrotown nor the city of Burnaby. We suspect, if this plan is approved, the unprecedented scale of displacement will assure a prolonged humanitarian disaster in the entire region with national and potentially international reverberations, as evident in the UN representative’s comment after recent visit to BC1.
We at COPE regard housing affordability and homelessness as crucial regional issues. As a municipal party, we believe it is within the power of municipal governments to create conditions to aggravate homelessness or to mitigate it. Municipal governments, Vancouver City Council included, frequently blame the Federal and Provincial governments for not spending enough on housing. While we need more funding and programs at Federal and Provincial levels, we also need municipal governments to stop disastrous community plans and rezoning projects that offer no meaningful replacement, only displacement. These rezonings are attacks on low-income neighbourhoods and are adding fuel to the flames of the housing crisis.
This is the choice that is in front of the Burnaby City Council at the end of this month and it is a clear choice: instigate displacement for more than 3000 vulnerable households and contribute to the homelessness crisis in the region or return to the drawing board and devise a community plan that respects and serves the existing community.
There are ways to foster the growth of a community without annihilating it. There are ways to build, renew and prosper that are not on the backs of those already crushed hardest by various systems of oppression: refugees, single mothers, the indigenous, the disabled, the racialized. Metrotown has been for decades a safe haven for these populations. We strongly urge you to treat this community with more respect.
Various resident groups, non-profit, activist and religious organizations have presented to you the wide-reaching effects of a mass rezoning in Metrotown. We would like to further invite you to reflect on COPE’s 2014 election platform’s recommendations for mitigating the housing crisis2, which are applicable to Burnaby as well as Vancouver. The recommendations we make are based on careful studies of international examples of housing programs at the city level which go on to prove that an alternative approach is not only possible but within reach.
Tim Louis and Connie Hubbs
Coalition of Progressive Electors