BC Acorn rallies outside Terry Beech’s office

An organization advocating for tenants’ rights picketed Burnaby Liberal candidate Terry Beech’s constituency office this week to call for more affordable housing in the city.

As part of a national day of action on housing on Wednesday, a handful of members of BC Acorn gathered outside the constituency office of the incumbent Burnaby North-Seymour candidate to call attention to issues around low-income housing.

Organizers raised the concerns of Jackie Cameron, a New Westminster resident who said her landlord has been making living in her apartment difficult in an effort to get her to leave.

Cameron said her landlord had taken a 4-suite building and added 2 suites illegally. One of those suites is Cameron’s, and the city ordered the landlord to fix the situation. But the city won’t force the landlord to evict her until she’s able to find a new place to live.

Since then, she said, she’s seen her hot water and other utilities turned off at times.

Recently, she said her landlord placed a pile of wood at the outside access to her unit. And construction makes accessing the unit difficult through the common hallway.

The landlord has reportedly handed her 3 eviction notices, but the Residential Tenancy Branch denied the first 2, while the third is still yet to receive a ruling.

Parties’ housing platforms

Demonstrators said they’re demanding more investment from the federal government into affordable housing for low-income households. Burnaby Acorn organizer Murray Martin said most investments into housing are for middle-class incomes.

Martin said he couldn’t speak for Acorn as a whole, but he said the Liberal and Conservative platforms focused too much on ownership and helping those who are more comfortably housed. Martin said the people who truly need the help are those who are struggling to rent.

“The Liberals and the Conservatives overly rely on market and commodification of housing. There’s problems with the NDP as well, like the promise to give $5,000 for every renter. That money could be better spent on building affordable [housing],” Martin said.

“We all know, when there’s more money given to renters, landlords jack up the [rent]. In BC we have rent control, but once you move out, the landlord could jack it up.”

Situations like Cameron’s wouldn’t be so dire, the group said, if there was a vastly greater supply of truly affordable housing. Cameron, who is on the notoriously low disability stipend, said she doesn’t want to stay in her current apartment.

But waitlists for BC Housing units are too long, she said.

“You’ve got to be 6 months homeless before they help you. They’re supposed to be preventing it, not encouraging it,” Cameron said.

“I’d like to be out of there as soon as possible, but I can’t. I’ve got nowhere to go. There’s no … affordable housing.”

Speculation about speculation

Martin said the Vancouver-Granville riding is a “microcosm” for the election when it comes to housing.

In that riding, Liberal candidate Taleeb Noormohamed has flipped at least 21 homes within a year of buying them since 2005, according to News1130.

The Conservative candidate, meanwhile, is a lawyer who represented a legal challenge to the BC government’s speculation and vacancy tax.

“I would say the 2 major parties so far have been an abject failure, and they’ve been the ones ruling the country since Confederation,” Martin said.

“So let’s put the emphasis on them to actually do something that doesn’t line developers’ pockets.”

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