Burnaby’s new rental policies have been met with mixed reviews – enthusiastic approval from councillors, muted praise from a housing activist and disappointment from a landlord advocate.
On Monday, city council unanimously approved a plan to put new rental zoning powers to work.
includes rezoning existing rental apartments to protect them from development; requiring developers to replace demolished apartments and rehouse displaced tenants; and demanding that one in five units in new developments be purpose-built rental.
"This is a very bold step in addressing the rental housing crisis," Coun. Pietro Calendino said at Monday’s council meeting.
The sentiment was echoed by Calendino’s council colleagues, including Coun. Joe Keithley who said the move affirmed “that housing is a right and not a privilege.”
Landlord advocate sees problems
But not everyone was equally impressed.
“I think there's really quite a few problems here,” said David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC.
The landlord advocate said he likes a provision in Burnaby’s rental-zoning plan allowing rental zoning additions to commercial and mixed-use developments and he supports a robust tenant relocation policy.
But, Hutniak said, the plan will not lead to the creation of new rental housing.
“The numbers just aren't going to work,” he said. “You start out with what looks like, on the surface, some sort of a progressive policy – but if it's structured on such a basis that the economics just don't work, that means that nothing is going to to get built.”
He said using “inclusionary zoning” to require 20 per cent rental housing in new buildings will do little to recoup the hundreds of rental apartments destroyed by developers in Burnaby in recent years.
“To get a couple thousand rental units – which is just a drop in the bucket for what Burnaby needs – that means we need to build 10,000 condo units,” Hutniak said.
Burnaby would do better to follow Vancouver’s lead by offering incentives to developers to build 100-per-cent rental developments, he said.
Mayor inherrited sinking ship: activist
Murray Martin, a spokesperson for Burnaby ACORN who led many demoviction protests and now sits on the city’s housing task force, offered faint support for the city’s rental zoning plan.
“This would have been a good start if they did this in 2011,” he said.
Mayor Mike Hurley inherited a housing crisis that can largely be blamed on his predecessor, Derek Corrigan, according to Martin. The activist said the former mayor deserves little credit, despite initiating the creation of rental zoning bylaws months before the 2018 election.
“Corrigan was on the Titanic. He hit the iceberg and he jumped overboard on a lifeboat and took off and told (Hurley), ‘Hey you might want to consider these plans.’ And Hurley is at the helm of the Titanic and he's just trying to seal the leak,” Martin said, referring to the city’s stock of rental housing being lost to demovictions. “So who knows when they're going to get to New York.”
Martin brushed aside Hutniak’s assertion that the inclusionary zoning provisions would make building new rental housing untenable for developers.
“This is what businesses always say when there's any conditions put on them,” he said. “It's their job to maximize their profits, so anything that impinges on profit-making, they're going to yell and scream. And then the case is, 90 times out of 100, is that they were hysterical for no reason.”