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City Council: new housing authority coming soon to Burnaby

Plus: a new bylaw for city council procedure, discussions about public art and more at the Oct. 16 council meeting

Housing was one of the main discussion topics at Burnaby City Council’s Oct. 16 meeting, which started at 5pm and lasted almost three hours. Council voted to create a new housing authority municipal corporation that would be responsible for providing more affordable housing to the city, including market rate rentals and below-market rentals. The Burnaby Housing Authority has completed its first phase and has now received approval from council to submit a request to the Inspector of Municipalities to create a municipal corporation.

The new housing authority project sparked a lengthy discussion among the city councillors, who expressed various opinions regarding the proposal. Coun. Daniel Tetrault supported the new corporation, saying, “Burnaby has the second highest rents in the country next to Vancouver. We need this housing authority to focus on purpose-built rentals, non-market rentals, particularly to provide the security that people need and affordability.” He added, “I really do think this authority has the potential to be a model for other municipalities in the region, and a model that expedites the much needed affordable housing. It can be bold, it can be innovative in tackling the affordable housing crisis.”

Coun. Maita Santiago was the second councillor to express support for the initiative, adding, “The number of folks in our community that don’t have a place to call home is increasing, and even for those that do have a home, especially renters, it can be a very precarious situation, where from month to month there’s always that uncertainty whether they might have to pack up and leave.” Santiago also spoke about the importance of having family and community nearby and how rising prices, unstable housing and other factors are uprooting people from their communities and forcing them to move to areas where they lack a social support system. She added, “the creation of this Burnaby housing authority is a crucial step towards addressing this issue that many of us face daily.”

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal opposed the new housing authority corporation, saying that the local government has been doing its best to provide more affordable housing for Burnaby residents. Despite the local government’s efforts, Dhaliwal said, “it doesn’t really matter how much as a local government we do until the province and the federal government put together a plan to build market rental housing.” While he expressed support for the creation of an entity responsible for affordable housing, he added, “what I do not support is the way this is proceeding forward as an external corporation with the unlimited scope left to see what they can do or should do because what that implies is how much can they put the city in financial exposure.”

Mayor Mike Hurley also supported the new housing authority corporation, saying, “We’ve done a lot, but we need to do a lot more. This offers the opportunity to do more in a creative way. We need to give the creative minds that are going to be on this board the opportunity to deliver housing, to deliver it in the most affordable way, and to do it in a different way…No one is saying this is a panacea to the housing crisis; it’s just another tool, and I think it can be a very useful tool if it’s done properly.”

After the housing discussion, the council tackled topics such as the planned Translink BRT routes for Burnaby, a new bylaw proposal for council procedures, and the importance of making public art accessible to all. Coun. Alison Gu expressed concerns about the presence of public art that needs to provide residents with an explanation of its meaning or context, while Santiago spoke about the importance of public art for different communities within Canada to feel a greater sense of belonging.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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