Housing market 'free for all' may be biggest influence in byelection

Dated: 02/13/2019

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Housing market 'free for all' may be biggest influence in byelection

Renters and developers say more incentives are needed for affordable housing

Areas like Metrotown have seen an increase in condo towers in recent years, pushing some residents out of the market. As local and federal elections loom, housing is a major topic of discussion in Burnaby South. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

This story is part of a series called Battleground Burnaby, which examines the federal issues at play from a Burnaby-based perspective. It airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition Feb. 11-15 and is produced by Jason D'Souza.


Housing is expected to be a major issue during the federal elections in the fall — and in Burnaby, B.C., it's a concern that's already swaying voters ahead of this month's byelection.

Renters and developers alike say they want to see more incentives from all levels of government to protect people from the volatile housing market, and they're eyeing the Feb. 25 vote in Burnaby South to bring in change.

"Right now, it's just a free for all," said Alaidjah McGlynn, a renter in the Metrotown area.

"Unless you have some decency [as a developer or landlord], it's just a feeding ground. It's crazy."

In Burnaby, there are countless tales of renters being evicted from older apartments that are torn down and the land redeveloped, who then struggle to find affordable alternative housing — a process called "demoviction" by some.

"There's been a lot of gentrification in the neighbourhood and, as a result, people have been moving around from building to building," McGlynn told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Metrotown residents rally against the demolition of low-rise apartment buildings in 2015.

'The numbers don't work very well'

McGlynn, a member of the Stop Demovictions Burnaby group, has been displaced from his home three times in the last three years.

"I know what it's like to not know where to go or if to stay or not."

As local and federal elections loom, all the major political parties are weighing in heavily on housing.

The Liberals are pointing to their 10-year National Housing strategy, the Conservatives have been vocal about their opposition to the stress test, and the NDP has called on the government to remove federal taxes from affordable housing construction projects.

Developer Hani Lammam (left) and renter Alaidjah McGlynn (right) are both hoping solutions to Burnaby South's housing struggles can be found in the upcoming byelection. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

But for developers like Hani Lammam, the solution is simply making the economics of affordable housing work.

"Land is expensive, construction costs are out of control, interest rates are rising and yet rents stay low — we're in a rent control environment," Lammam said.

"The numbers don't work very well."

Stable policies required

Lammam wants to see incentives from all levels of government to help make the projects more feasible — and stable policies require long-term planning, he said.

Oftentimes, he said, the politicians making promises will come and go in a four-year election cycle before a multi-year project can take off.

"We can't get projects up through the approval process in time to make enough of a difference that these politicians get credit for it," Lammam said.

"Everybody's reacting to what's happening today as opposed to planning in the long term."

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Steven Axford

Steve Axford grew up in Victoria, BC and has always been active in his community. Steve is a Victoria Cougars Hockey Team alumni as well as a Victoria Shamrocks (intermediate) alumni. During his time....

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