Burnaby City Hall. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

Here’s what’s on the agenda for Burnaby’s May 9 council meeting

A lot of housing is on the agenda for tonight's city council meeting in Burnaby, including housing agreements, public hearings, and more.

By Dustin Godfrey | May 9, 2022 |5:00 am

Oh yes, my friends, you know what day it is. That’s right: council day! So buckle up and sit down—in that order—’cause this is what we’ll be paying attention to tonight.

Bye-bye public hearings?

Public hearings and other regulatory processes for developments’ approval are under the city’s microscope as staff conduct a development approval review process (DARP). The review resulted from legislation from the province that removed a number of provincial requirements for developments.

That includes removing public hearing requirements for zoning amendments that are consistent with the official community plan, allowing staff to decide on “minor” development variance permit approvals, and allowing local governments to determine specific mediums for public notice requirements around rezonings.

The public hearing is a contentious concept, with some saying it favours the existing landowners over those who may potentially benefit from new housing in the city. However, others argue it is a way for residents to force council to listen to their concerns about a development in their neighbourhood.

Recently, public consultation as a whole was a particularly thorny issue around a forthcoming BC General Employees’ Union housing and office space project, however that project would not have been affected by the rule changes, as it required an OCP change.

But the provincial government’s development approvals process review (DAPR—not to be confused with the DARP at the city level), found that the format of public hearings “does not provide an opportunity for discussion.”

Public hearings typically occur late in the approvals process, which makes it difficult to require substantial changes, according to the DAPR, and they don’t reflect the actual community’s beliefs.

Instead, the provincial government’s review suggested cities find tools for more “effective and meaningful” public engagement and to do it early on in the development approvals process.

Staff are requesting council authorization to pursue the DARP process.

Rental housing report

In mid-April, the city’s planning and development committee received a report with an update on changes in the number of market and non-market rental units in the city, up to Feb 28. This report will now be seen by council, though it’s not a voting item; it’s only for council’s (and our!) information.

Between Oct 1, 2021, and Feb 28, 2022, the city saw 83 new market and non-market rental units enter the city’s permitting processes. That makes a total of 10,441 rental units at all stages of the development process since 2012.

Nine new rezoning applications through the rental use zoning policy (RUZP) were submitted for a total of 707 non-market rental units. One market rental project, with 321 units, also was completed, and tenants have now moved in.

Included in the 10,441 total units are 5,141 units that are either maintained or added through city policies. The majority of that number—2,697—are replacement units required by the city for rentals that are being demolished to make way for new developments.

On top of that, 2,216 required “Burnaby affordable” rental units are in the development process. Those units are part of the 20% requirement for all multi-family developments in town centres, which are required to be rented out for 20% below the median rent in the area, as recorded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The city also has an optional inclusionary provision in the RUZP, in which extra density is afforded to developments that add more units for rent at CMHC median rates. In that category, just 228 units are in the development process.

Of the 10,441 new or replaced rental units since 2012, 7,671 are still in the rezoning process, with 1,081 under construction and 1,015 tenanted.

Securing non-market housing

How is Burnaby ensuring non-market housing created through its rental use zoning policy (RUZP) stays at below-market rates, you ask? Well, you’ve got some great timing because the answer is here!

First, if you’re wondering about the non-market housing units I’m talking about, that means you didn’t read the previous item. Return to Go. Do not collect $200. Etc.

OK, now that we’re all caught up: the Local Government Act permits local governments to allow different densities with rezoning in exchange for the provision of non-market or special needs housing—that’s what the RUZP largely relies on. It also allows the city to secure that non-market or special needs housing through a housing agreement.

City staff note in a report to council that housing agreements secure details like rent levels, income testing requirements, and target populations, and they’re filed on the land title.

Now, as the city is seeing more RUZP proposals making their way through the rezoning process—83 projects in total, so far, with some reaching the end of the process—staff are recommending the city apply housing agreements to those projects.

Staff are seeking council’s approval to apply housing agreements to the properties that are currently underway, as well as to develop a housing agreement bylaw that would codify the process.

The proposed terms of the agreements include a requirement that non-market units never be stratified, that replacement units be rented to displaced tenants from demolished rental buildings, and that required inclusionary units be rented to households with incomes at or below BC Housing’s housing income limits with rents at most 20% below CMHC median rents, among others.

Sidewalk patios

The city is looking at making its active patio program permanent and city-wide, pandemic summers. For now, staff are seeking an extension to the existing program until Oct 31, 2022 to allow businesses to utilize sidewalk space for patios. Currently, the program is set to expire on June 1.

According to the staff, “many businesses” have used the sidewalk patio program, and “there are locations where these temporary patios have helped businesses meet pandemic restrictions with minimal impact to traffic and transportation safety.

City staff expect to have a permanent program for council’s consideration in time for next spring.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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