Council recognizes seven local heroes

Plus: Ten complex care housing units coming to Burnaby, city explores new ways to protect tenants, and car-free days

At Burnaby council’s April 29 meeting, housing issues took centre stage as city council discussed non-market rental developments, policies to protect tenants and new complex care housing units that would provide housing and healthcare for vulnerable residents. Council also recognized seven local heroes with awards and certificates for their volunteer work and contributions to the community. 

Seven local heroes 

Image of this year’s Local Hero award recipients. Photo: City of Burnaby

Seven Burnaby residents were recognized at council’s April 29 meeting as “Local Heroes.” Burnaby residents Sharon Domass, Jane Leah, Laurie Molstad, Ryan Males, Samantha Nelson, Josie Polisi, and Polly Voon all received certificates of appreciation from the city to recognize their volunteering work in a variety of areas, including with seniors, children, and people experiencing homelessness. 

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to recognize seven individuals for their significant accomplishments and the positive impact they made for the city and citizens of Burnaby,” Mayor Mike Hurley said. He added that this is the 26th year the city has recognized its local heroes, and the number of those recognized is currently 299. “Local Heroes represent an impressive cross-section of Burnaby citizens.”

Complex care housing comes to Burnaby

Naomi Brunemeyer, director of regional development, BC Housing, and Becky Doherty, clinical director, mental health and substance use, Fraser Health, presented a new program to provide complex care housing units in Burnaby starting this year. Burnaby is one of four municipalities in the Fraser region to receive units this year to provide this kind of care for vulnerable adults. The three other municipalities are Abbotsford, New Westminster and Surrey. 

The Fraser Health website describes complex care housing as a place where “​​health care, social services, and non-profit housing providers will deliver wrap-around care for adults 19 and older living with overlapping mental health and/or substance use challenges and other health needs.”

According to Brunemeyer, the Fraser region was allocated the largest number of units in BC, with 20 units each in Surrey and Abbotsford and 10 each for New Westminster and Burnaby. Complex care housing was introduced in 2023, with 240 units across BC in its second phase. 

The aim of complex care housing is to support adults with significant health issues, including substance use and mental health issues. Doherty said it is a voluntary program that offers integrated support services and operates as a partnership between Fraser Health and BC Housing. 

“One of the things that’s really exciting about this initiative is the close working partnership between housing and healthcare,” Doherty said. She added that it is one team working with the individuals who need these services, people trained in concurrent disorders and cultural safety, staff including nurses, social workers, and cultural support workers, and connecting people with psychiatrists and addiction medicine. 

“People are very ill when they enter the program. They are individuals who have been homeless or at risk of homelessness, surviving day to day and not able to attend to their healthcare needs and often their multiple needs. One of the tasks of the team is to develop trust and make connections with individuals, and then we find that they’re in a place to start to address some of their healthcare, and they do start to feel better,” Doherty said. 

Council members welcomed the initiative but pointed out some challenges the city may face with the new units. Coun. Pietro Calendino supported the project, adding that it will require extensive community engagement. 

“There is a certain perception of what such a facility may do in the neighbourhood and it’s not always the reality but people have those fears and you have to mitigate those fears. So my advice is make sure there is a lot of communication and engagement, way in advance of funding or implementing this service,” Calendino said. 

Coun. Maita Santiago echoed Calendino’s remarks, saying it is essential to ensure that the community embraces this type of project. 

City staff to explore policy tools to protect tenants

During the meeting, Coun. Alison Gu presented a report seeking council approval for staff to explore new policy tools to protect tenants in secondary units such as those renting basement suites. Gu said that with the new provincial bills introduced late last year regarding the city’s densification, she expects increased evictions and displacement for new developments. 

“The vast majority of renters in our city, 40% of our residents, live in secondary market rentals, so they rent from an individual, and that individual has the right to redevelop their property and sell it as part of the redevelopment,” Gu said. “These tenants are exposed to a lack of security, an inability to plan their futures in Burnaby and essentially creates a tier of renters between those who live in purpose-built rentals who are afforded many of these supports throughout development and secondary rentals who do not have any of these types of supports.”

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal and Calendino expressed concerns about any new policy that might discourage homeowners from renting out their secondary suites and cause a sharp drop in available rental units in the city. 

“That would be devastating to the currently available secondary suite rentals,” Dhaliwal said. 

Calendino said that while he was sympathetic to Gu’s motion, he agreed with Dhaliwal that there is a need for balance that would not penalize homeowners currently renting out their secondary units. 

Council considers car-free days for 2025

Crowds gathered during the Canada Day Street Fest. Photo: City of Burnaby

Council discussed the feasibility of introducing car-free Sundays in Burnaby, with Calendino championing the initiative and asking staff to explore a “modest start” introducing one car-free day this year to assess the financial viability of this idea. 

According to a report submitted to council, the cost of policing, engineering, and traffic closure would be relatively high. 

“Some of our research around the scale is that certainly, the engineering and traffic closure is about the size of the street closure,” said Emmaline Hill, director of culture with the city, adding that there is an additional cost to create vibrancy in any event. “Certainly our experience with Street Fest is that you do need to parachute quite a bit of activation into the site in order to generate that activity and make people feel safe and like there’s something to see.” 

Staff will engage with the community later this year during the Edmonds Fair and Hats Off Day to gather ideas and suggestions from community members. Coun. Daniel Tetrault said he is disappointed that nothing is scheduled for this summer but hopes the city will prioritize it next year. Santiago said that she hopes staff will explore other types of car-free days and that they do not need to be only large-scale events such as the Canada Day Street Fest or Hats Off Day

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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