City must take lead on housing

Comment from Voices:  Reprinted below is a letter borrowed from Burnaby Now, and the concerns stated apply equally to renters in the City of North Van.  We do note that the City of North Van is developing a Housing Action Plan:

This is the most recent report (2013) on Policy Directions: Housing Affordability and Diversity

We believe that the top two priorities for housing are: security for renters, and family friendly affordable housing. Another article worth a read:


City must take lead on housing.

‘I would like to respond to Chiyo Buston’s letter of July 29 (Govts need to work together on housing). When Buston says that “Only homeowners pay property taxes,” the implication is that renters don’t pay taxes. This incorrect. Renters pay property taxes also. This money is raised by landlords through the rent tenants pay.

Buston also mentions that older rental buildings are becoming run down as if there is nothing that can be done about it. For two years now, ACORN has been asking Burnaby city council to enact standards of maintenance bylaws that would prevent irresponsible landlords who charge premium rent for accommodation while not maintaining their buildings. Because the provincial government has ignored enforcing standards of maintenance on landlords for the last 15 years, some cities like Surrey have been stepping in to protect their citizens.

In regard to Buston’s comments on homeless people coming to B.C. from other areas, it doesn’t matter where or why homeless people are here. What matters is that they are in our city, and they need help. The municipal government should not refuse to help and hope the problem goes away because they think it is ultimately a provincial/federal government responsibility. Like so many of our neighbouring municipalities, Burnaby is free to adopt an affordable housing strategy. For example, in May this year, the City of Richmond announced an affordable housing program. Then they invited the federal and provincial governments to participate. What is preventing the mayor and council from doing likewise here?

If council wants to help renters, here are a few suggestions. First, follow the lead of other municipalities and introduce standards of maintenance bylaws to protect Burnaby renters. Second, stop allowing the destruction of affordable rental housing stock by refusing to rezone rental properties to condominiums. Third, require developers to include social housing units in every newly built condominium development that council approves. Fourth, raise property taxes on unoccupied housing to prevent speculators from continuing to drive up property prices and rents in the city. The revenue raised by increased property tax on speculators can be in turn used to fund standards of maintenance bylaws and subsidize social housing.

ACORN does not blame Burnaby city council for the present housing crisis. However, there are things the city can do to mitigate the problem and treat all residents as equals and not give priority to the needs of property owners. All residents of Burnaby are citizens and deserve to be treated as such.

Ric Erb is co-chair of ACORN Burnaby.’

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