A push for affordable purpose-built rentals and the abandonment of a bylaw

After a few weeks of no council meetings, we're back with a review of some of the highlights from Monday night's meeting.

By Simran Singh | August 31, 2022 |5:00 am

Howdy, Burnaby!

After a few weeks of no council meetings, we’re back with a review of some of the highlights from Monday night’s meeting.

Read on to learn more about an abandoned bylaw and a new motion that encourages more affordable purpose-built rentals.

Abandonment of  bylaw

The abandonment of a zoning bylaw and a bylaw amendment regarding the construction of a 41-storey market residential tower over a six-storey podium and a 37-storey non-market residential tower over a six-storey podium at two city-owned lots (a portion of 7679 19th and 7701 18th St.) drew concern from Coun. Colleen Jordan.

Vibe Check

“Mostly when we are abandoning a bylaw and rezoning, it’s after a long time of no activity, four years I think is usually the time, or it’s being replaced by something else. But in this instance, it’s been months since we were not able to achieve our goal of housing on this property and make this housing viable … and we don’t have anything to replace it [with] yet, so I don’t understand what the hurry is, why is this coming forward at this time?” she asked.

Staff noted that the move was to give “both parties clarity on how to move forward swiftly with future plans”, and added that the site could be brought forward for other housing opportunities that would be taken to market as soon as possible.

Jordan said she did not support the motion, was not ready to abandon it, and expressed that it was “one of the saddest days [she’s] had sitting at this table, having to see that this is not going to find a way to go forward.”

Coun. Alison Gu noted that despite the disappointment of seeing affordable housing projects that don’t work out, the report states the 505 non-market rental units that were intended for these properties will still be happening using Burnaby’s inclusionary zoning bylaw.

“I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic that we will find an even better affordable housing project to go on this land and to be able to advance that in a very expeditious timeline.”

The motion passed with Jordan voting against it.

Affordable purpose-built rentals

Couns. Gu, Pietro Calendino, Sav Dhaliwal, and James Wang presented a notice of motion for affordable purpose-built rentals.

The motion calls on council to direct staff to “include in the upcoming rental use zoning policy consideration of all tools available to facilitate purpose-built rentals, prioritizing tools that tie incentives to affordability, and report back”, as well as consider new ways to incentivize affordable purpose-built rentals for residents and families.

Essentially, as Gu wrote in a tweet, the owner of a unit can rent it out but they can also take it back, sell it, or give it to a friend or family member, creating uncertainty for renters, hence why “we need more rental units that stay rental” with mixed-affordability, and that are built in “missing middle housing.”

Vibe Check:

Jordan asked for specifics on the “incentives” mentioned in the report.

Gu said the purpose is to incentivize purpose-built rentals and those savings should be passed down to the renter.

Gu added that she is leaving it to staff to determine what the best incentives are. She went on to say that the intent of the motion is to direct staff to use tools that are currently not being used, find the best ways to allow for more affordable purpose-built rentals to be constructed, and consider diversity in that type of housing.

Jordan put forward an amendment that the review consider improvements related to the appropriate size of replacement units as per CMHC guidelines.

The amendment was defeated. The initial motion carried.

Stay tuned for more reporting on this, as the Beacon’s Srushti Gangdev will have a follow-up story on this motion coming up this week.

Rapid-fire roundup:

Vote by mail

With the city gearing up for the municipal election in October, residents will be able to vote by mail for the first time. A presentation was given regarding the process, and more information can be found on the City of Burnaby’s elections website. 


Public Alerting System

A screenshot from city staff’s presentation on the public alert system. (City of Burnaby)

City staff provided an update on the city’s public alert system. The system was an initiative to come out of the 2020 community safety plan. A project team was put together at the beginning of this year to work on the app. The app was launched to the public in May, just in time to alert the public of the extreme heat.

The city selected the Alertable app to disseminate messages to the public. Residents can download the app and receive emergency alerts from the city in a timely fashion on their landlines, smartphones, tablets, and computers via email, text, or phone call notifications. To sign up for the app you can go to Burnaby.ca/alertable.

After 20 years, Colleen Jordan will step away from council:

Jordan made the announcement at the end of Monday’s meeting. Jordan has served on council since 2002, and was a longtime member of the Burnaby Citizens’ Association. She left the BCA in 2020, however, after in-party disagreements over several motions she had put forward related to housing. Fellow BCA councillors Dan Johnston and Paul McDonell also left the party at the same time, choosing to sit as independents. McDonell died last year.

Johnston similarly announced over the weekend that he would not be seeking re-election.

With files from Srushti Gangdev

Simran Singh

Managing Editor at Burnaby Beacon

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