The following are exerpts from an independent study titled, Transit-Oriented Development and Gentrification in Metro Vancouver’s Low-Income SkyTrain Corridor done by Craig E. Jones , a PhD graduate student in in the University of B.C.’s geography department.
Most of the text is from Mr. Jones’s report with some comments in red from me. There are comments from participants , the researcher, and an”elected government official”.
His work is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada which has funded the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership based at the University of Toronto
3.2 Perception of Development in Maywood
In Maywood the current development of condominium towers was unanimously perceived as negative (Compared to Edmonds). One participant labelled development in this neighbourhood as an “attack of high rises,” and the towers were viewed as an immediate threat. Participants were concerned that the owners of low-rise purpose-built rental housing in Maywood were seeing the new towers as an indication that they would one day be able to sell their property to a developer, and that this was acting as a disincentive for landlords to properly maintain their buildings.
“I’ve noticed in just the two years I’ve been here I saw high-rises over there, over there, over there [pointing south, west and north]. And I think they are very expensive. I’ve noticed where we are staying, they are not changing and they are not renovating anymore. If it is old they are not changing, that is why we are looking [to move].”
The new builds are so expensive to rent; there’s either old places that need renovating that they’re not doing because they’re waiting to just sell and then something new will go up that most people are priced out of it. Participants in Maywood also expressed feelings of exclusion. One form evokes social displacement (Chernoff 1980), as participants felt unable to influence the political process that led to approval for the development of towers, leading them to conclude that they had no control over the changes happening to their neighbourhood.
“I think, for example the high-rises in Metrotown area might be part of the plan of the City of Burnaby, because when they started, there is a new high-rise coming out… because we live nearby that place we went to City Hall to have a public hearing. They invited people from the neighbourhood and with the City Council; Mayor and everybody. There were some people from the low-rise in that area, they talked and they said with all the new high-rises coming out, that will push away low-income families because they can’t afford the high prices, but they like the convenience of living in the Metrotown area; the SkyTrain, library, shopping mall, everything. But the Mayor was there, the Councillors were there, I think they had a public hearing but after that meeting, then I saw the sign came up already. So people can make their noise and go talk to the Mayor or something, but I don’t know if it’s going to change the plan of the city or not.”
“There is so many high-rises coming up, one after another, I think we can talk to the media or to the City Hall, but I don’t know how it’s going to affect the decisions of the City.”
“The plan is changing the neighbourhood. What I see is just they have to build more high-rises, they not care about the people living in this area… It is plan to build highrises and the people’s concern is not their concern, because they can make more money from building more high-rises.”
“If we could ask the Mayor to put up the high-rise, but affordable. But who can talk to them?”
We cannot stop this trend of having more high-rises
The physical spaces of the towers themselves were perceived as another form of exclusion, because it was thought that the new units would be too expensive for participants to rent.
Participant A: “Everywhere you look it’s high-rise, high-rise and noise. Even my daughter, she is eight years, youngest one, and we came out after swimming classes and [she said], “OK Mom, we can buy one of these beautiful [condos],” and I said, “No.” She thinks it cheap.
Participant B: Yeah the same thing, my daughter she is just 11 and she says, “Mom, we can take one condo. OK we will take?” Because in my family we have four members and my husband is the only one who is having the income [we could not afford to rent a condo].
Many participants in Maywood feared that they would soon be pushed out of the neighbourhood because it was changing so rapidly.
“This neighbourhood is changing fast… The construction is growing fast; it is changing the landscape of the city. It is attack of high-rises. People who are interested in development are coming to this neighbourhood and I know our neighbourhood is changing so fast. Five years ago I was here, living here. It was quiet, we never thought here would change. And now we see every building in this area is going to be demolished [this comment drew general agreement from the other participants], it will be high rise, and people will change… I believe in next five years it will change and people will move from here. And it is so sad that change is going so fast… It is just so sad and what we see is destruction, inconvenience… In this area, all low-rise buildings [will be] completely gone in three years.”
I feel less secure [in tenure] than before… In my opinion they will destroy our old building because both sides they built a high-rise. That means in maybe two years they [will replace our building with a high-rise]. We have to think about the future. Move out or buy something. We are scared to move out…
“Especially on the south side of the SkyTrain there, where they’re knocking down the low-rises and building the high-rises, there’s going to be a completely different demographic of people moving into those high-rises compared to the people who were living there before… And I think that the people who could have afforded to live there are going to be shifted further along because they can’t afford to live there anymore.
The ‘S’ zoning was originally intended to be implemented through individual Town Centre development plan updates, but because there were so many opportunities for the application of the ‘S’ category, the City of Burnaby considered it appropriate to fast-track the designation by approving it as a text amendment to the existing zoning bylaw (Burnaby 2011). A public hearing at Burnaby City Hall about the introduction of the density bonus program was held on 23 November 2010; no submissions from the public were received regarding the text amendment (Burnaby 2010b). Public consultation on the text amendment was terminated at the end of the hearing and as of the time of writing, no further presentations regarding the text amendment would be accepted by Council (Burnaby 2010a). (From Researcher)
The introduction of ‘S’ zoning has a remarkable potential to increase a site’s maximum allowable FAR, maximum buildable area, and value.
“The geographical concentration of apartment demolition permits in and around Maywood explains why participants in Maywood had such a different perception of development compared with those in Richmond Park.”
The City’s response to concerns of loss of affordable housing:
“It is acknowledged that the issue of housing affordability is complex and challenging and influenced by many external factors such as market conditions – supply and demand, projected population growth, income, and market costs of land and building construction. While these existing units may provide a measure of affordable housing within the Town Centre, like many buildings that are nearing the end of their life-cycle, they are advanced for redevelopment based on market conditions, and as it becomes increasingly uneconomic to continue to repair and maintain older building stock as they age (Burnaby 2013a).”
A critique of this line of reasoning is that it applies to an entire region of affordable housing. Under this logic, almost all of the aging stock of purpose-built rental housing in Burnaby is a candidate for redevelopment. Concerns over affordable housing in Maywood and Richmond Park were raised in an interview with an elected government official who was involved in the introduction of ‘S’ zoning. The following section is based upon that interview. – Author of Study
“The City became concerned that the deteriorating housing stock could contribute to a further concentration of poverty in these areas which could lead to social issues that the City would not be equipped to manage.”
“In the end it was decided that redevelopment in Maywood would be facilitated through ‘S’ zoning.”
Ultimately, Council decided that the reality of the market would not permit both the revitalization of housing in Maywood and continued housing affordability for low-income residents. The excerpts below are taken from that interview.
” You’ve got to remember: we’ve been resisting for 25 years the redevelopment of this area, and there’s only so far you can go before the writing is on the wall.
There’s no easy equation and I can tell you, we went through a study early on in regard to Metrotown, looking at ways we could try to stimulate the recreation of that amount of [rental] housing that existed, by the new development density that we brought in. Impossible.
Every consultant we had said, “Can’t do it, can’t do it, can’t do it.” The numbers don’t work. And you can’t get that rental housing built because rental housing is just not marketable… So what I’m doing is accepting the inevitable, which is that you can’t have this low a density around a Skytrain station in the middle of an urban centre. (When density is calculated for Metrotown by the powers that be, they include the 90 hectares of area that is Central Park. When the park is removed from the equation, density becomes highest in the Metro Vancouver Region. Vancouver Regional town center excludes Stanley Park. It should be the same way here.)
And so I’ve only got that broad sort of brush to paint with. Which is saying by creating more housing, then hopefully, on the trickle-down theory, is that eventually this is going to create better housing opportunities for others. I can’t hold back the sea of change.
We eventually – despite being… left-wing… [and] very conscious of these issues – we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t continue to stop development from happening in the Maywood area [just] because we thought that the people in there should somehow be protected from that reality.
Because we were no longer doing them any favours as there was such a downturn in the quality of housing that they were turning into fire traps, rat traps and it was not going well.”
“We spent a lot of money on consultants and trying to find some magic solution that didn’t exist. We worked very hard at it and no matter how many meetings we had, and no matter what we went through, we couldn’t find a way. Even if we took all of what we had and increased density in ‘S’ zoning and threw [all of the funds collected through density bonuses] back in, we still couldn’t accomplish that goal [of retaining the stock of rental housing]. At that point people threw up their hands and said, “We’ve just got to allow this…” Unless we were told that we could [zone the area exclusively for] rental housing, and we could have frozen everything and said, “You’re all in a rental housing character.” Then that would be a successful way to move on. Aside from that, as soon as we got to the point that we were allowing the first high-rise in, we knew that the flood gates would open. Either you freeze this area and you ghettoize it, which was what it was becoming, or you say, “All right, once I open this door we know that everybody’s going to be saying, ‘What about me? You let them, what about my property?’ ” And it’s hard to deny that in Metrotown, which is a regional town centre and the area that’s closest to transit with the highest transit ridership station in the Lower Mainland that we’re not going to allow density… That would work against everything we’re saying in every other area. It was never a comfortable and easy decision and I think you should be aware of that. We don’t make these decisions in a cavalier way. We agonize over the decisions we’re making.”
(This is my favourite quote)
A lot of people begin to look, and dumb people, they look at it as, “Well, you’ve got this pot of money over here, use this pot of money to… fix the problem for the people in Metrotown, because this density should pay for the people that are being displaced.” That’s the logic to say, “Well, you’re growing more people there, so you should pay for the people you’re displacing by giving them units in these housing.” If I do that, if I subsidize those people, what it means is for all the amenities that are required by this more dense population, I got to go to my [tax revenues] to get that money. By maintaining a neutrality on these developments by them providing their own increased amenities, it’s not so difficult for my community who are in single family homes to say, “Density is positive. It’s not hurting me, in fact I’m gaining amenities in those areas as a result of it.”
So maintaining “neutrality” equals giving amenities and protection from sustainable development to single family homeowners while displacing those that depend on transit, have modest incomes and can’t vote??
And then the question becomes, “Since I’ve rented in this apartment for this long, you owe me. You owe me the right to an apartment, and you owe me the right to live in this neighbourhood.” Well, nobody owes you anything and they’re not going to give it to you. I can’t stimulate the other orders of government… to be involved in any of this. And without their participation, I’ve got no option to be able to deal with this [housing issue].
According to the author, There are unintended consequences to this line of reasoning. Now that the City of Burnaby has introduced ‘S’ zoning, low-rise purpose-built rental housing in Maywood that is in fair condition is as much a candidate for redevelopment as low-rise rental housing in poor condition.
The introduction of ‘S’ zoning has skewed that ratio in Maywood and facilitated the demolition of 63 units of purpose-built rental housing at 6225 and 6255 Cassie Avenue, which according to a Council report was in “fair condition” when the site containing a low-rise rental building was rezoned
Maywood and Richmond Park (Edmonds) are more than districts of lowincome renters living in poor housing; they are desirable, complete, welcoming communities that offer a quality of life that is difficult for low-income people to find in other parts of the region, particularly if they are refugees or newcomers to Canada.
It is unlikely that the occupants of the 200-plus apartment units for which demolition permits were issued in the last three years would have found affordable housing in their neighbourhood. An elected government official agreed with this assessment.
Density bonuses gained through ‘S’ zoning have made it possible to bring new amenities and services to Maywood and Richmond Park, and the residents of these neighbourhoods have benefited as a result. (I dont agree. The only amenity attributable to “S” zoning in Maywood is the Neighbourhood House Space on Telford. Despite the collection of over $100 million in CACs. In addition, the bylaw does not require that the affordable housing portion- benefited as a result.over $20million collected in Maywood– be spent in the neighbourhood)
Redevelopment through ‘S’ zoning is continuing in these neighbourhoods, but the experience of redevelopment differs greatly between the two. The perception of development in Richmond Park was not wholly negative, as the construction of condominium towers had so far taken place without the demolition of low-rise purpose-built rental housing buildings. Recent improvements in the neighbourhood, such as a new library and community recreation centre, were made possible through the density bonus program. (The improvements in Edmonds were made prior to the introduction of S-zoning and should not be looked upon as a result of S-zoning)
It is clear how the City of Burnaby arrived at the decision to facilitate redevelopment in Maywood through increased densities permitted by ‘S’ zoning. It must be acknowledged that the municipality of Burnaby is operating in a context of expanding responsibilities with limited resources, with little support from the provincial or federal levels of government to tackle issues related to housing (Hiebert et al. 2006).
However, in attempting to address a concern that a deteriorating housing geography would lead to a deteriorating social geography, the blunt tool of ‘S’ zoning made the redevelopment of all low-rise purpose-built rental housing in Maywood and Richmond Park financially viable, regardless of the building’s age or condition. Even buildings that are in fair condition are now candidates for redevelopment because the ratio of permitted floorspace to existing floorspace can be ‘S’ zoned to the point at which the value of land dwarfs the value of the structure upon it. One of the key motivations for the introduction of ‘S’ zoning was to provide a market mechanism that would facilitate the redevelopment of old and poorly maintained rental housing, but under these conditions, a building’s age and condition become irrelevant.
The outcome for the low-income neighbourhood of Maywood is an obvious case of gentrification facilitated and justified by the logic of TOD. One need only take a cursory glance at promotional materials promising public art and luxurious amenities in new condominium developments to see that changes to the built environment represent the clear class transformation of this neighbourhood.
Focus group participants (particularly those living in Maywood) who have yet to experience direct displacement communicated an experience of both indirect and social displacement (Chernoff 1980; Marcuse 1985) in their perception that they were unable to intervene in the political process that is bringing significant changes to the built form of their neighbourhood through policies that support TOD.