In a move that may be without precedent in Canada, the City of Burnaby has reconvened two groups who participated in the 2019 Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing to ask an important question: How are we doing so far?
“Housing is such a complex issue and we have a community that is so passionately engaged and invested in creating a more affordable and accessible housing situation for everyone,” said Coun. Pietro Calendino, who chaired the Mayor’s Task Force. “That’s why we took the extraordinary steps we did in 2019 to change direction and drive the actions needed to improve the lives of our residents.”
Facilitated by the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, the Task Force met 10 times over a six-month period in 2019 and delivered its final recommendations that July. At the same time, SFU led the Your Voice. Your Home. community engagement process – one of the most robust in Burnaby’s history – that provided input into the Task Force’s work. Since then, Burnaby has moved rapidly to implement policy and actions that are already impacting people’s lives for the better.
Actions to improve housing affordability and accessibility by City include:
- Adopting one of the most robust and progressive tenant relocation policies in Canada, ensuring people can stay in their neighbourhood at the same rent;
- Adopting BC’s first rental-use zoning policy which requires a minimum of 20% below-market rental housing to be in most new developments, City-wide;
- Identifying and initiating pre-zoning of five City-owned sites for 1,150+ units of non-market and affordable housing, which would increase non-market housing in Burnaby by 20%; and
- Partnering with BC Housing to open two shelters (1 emergency, 1 temporary) and a supportive housing facility for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Today (March 1), the Task Force is convening again to review the City’s progress in delivering on its 18 final recommendations and 10 quick starts. The Task Force includes housing advocates, local unions, co-operative housing organizations, developers, builders, and renters as well as members of City Council.
“This process has been transformative for Burnaby,” said Mayor Mike Hurley. “It’s replaced the winners-and-losers dynamic that often dominates debate about difficult issues with an open dialogue where everyone’s voices are heard and valued, and people are willing to make the tradeoffs necessary to benefit our entire community.”
The Task Force and Your Voice. Your Home. initiative in 2019 included several innovations not typically seen in public engagement. In addition to public surveys, residents were engaged through a Community Ideas workshop and a Community Recommendations workshop. Student ambassadors from SFU also participated in outreach to hard-to-reach groups, such as those with a very low income, to ensure their voices were heard.
"The Burnaby housing dialogue is unique in Canada in three ways," said Shauna Sylvester, Executive Director of the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and facilitator of the Task Force. "First, it started with the needs of the people of Burnaby, rather than looking at housing forms or building types. Second, it married the resident consultation process with the Task Force deliberations, and third, it brought back together all of the key players to evaluate progress 18 months later. Burnaby should be proud of the results, they are unprecedented."
Last month, a group of 13 residents who participated in an all-day recommendations workshop in May 2019 as part of the Your Voice. Your Home. process also reconvened to review the City’s work in delivering on their Community Recommendations. The feedback from both groups will be summarized by SFU in two “What We Heard” reports to be presented to City Council this spring.
Mayor Mike Hurley
City of Burnaby
Executive Director, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
T: 778-782-7895 | C: 778-231-0715 | E: [email protected]
ABOUT SFU MORRIS J. WOSK CENTRE FOR DIALOGUE:
Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue fosters shared understanding and positive action through dialogue and engagement. As a trusted convener and hub for community initiatives, we have engaged hundreds of thousands of citizens and stakeholders to create solutions for critical issues such as climate change, democracy & civic engagement, peace & security, inter-cultural dialogue, urban sustainability and health. The Centre actively connects the university and community partners to exchange knowledge and work towards shared objectives, and supports student success through the Semester in Dialogue and other experiential education opportunities.