First we came for the First Nations’ land, and we did not speak out—
Because we were not First Nations.
Then they came for Japantown and for Hogan’s Alley, and we did not speak out—
Because we were not Japanese or Black.
Then they came for our rented homes, and we did not speak out—
Because we no longer rented.
Then they came for my home—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Sound a bit dramatic? Maybe. Maybe not. This is the twenty-first century; we know better than our ancestors, our grandparents, our parents. We understand the importance of having a safe and secure home to live in and that displacement is not healthy for a community. We believe that in a democratic society our votes are equal, and regardless of our wealth, or lack of it,we can coexist in the same community. Unfortunately, the truth is we are not equal, and we are rewriting the laws to ensure rich and poor remain separated. I have spoken repeatedly about demovictions and the loss of my low income neighbours from my neighbourhood. I remind people that this displacement is not inevitable, but the product of bylaws implemented by the City to keep density low in other parts of Burnaby. But, now it is not just renters at risk of demoviction. Condo owners, like myself, face increased risk of being forced out of Metrotown due to changes at the provincial and municipal level.
In the past it was difficult for developers to buy entire strata buildings. This was because strata owners needed 100 percent of owners to agree to sell. But the Liberal government has passed new rules that allow a strata building to be sold if 80 percent of owners agree to a sale. Two nondescript three-storey walk-ups in Vancouver were recently sold to a local developer, then flipped twice, resulting in a price increase of 400 percent in 30 months. Before you say, “Great, this strata made the deal of a lifetime!” it is important to recognize that it was not the original condo owners, that got rich. It was the two developers in the middle.
Under, the new 80 percent requirement, if ten owners in a fifty unit condo do not want to sell, they can be forced to do so by the other owners. There may not be forty other owners as realtors are scrambling to list your condo and your neighbours’ to sell to wealthy investor groups. Already, the flyers are coming in the mail.
In my case, I own a two-bedroom, 1150 sf apartment in a three storey building. There are 25 units and the building was built in the early 90’s. The assessed value is $391,000. If four other owners and I do not want to sell for whatever reason, we can be forced by the rest to sell. If the building is sold at the assessed value, where can I find a comparably priced home near Metrotown? I can’t.
A second equally troubling problem arises about what is the fair value of this unit. Strata plans filed prior to July 1, 2000 contain a “schedule of interest on destruction”.This schedule is to be used to determine an owner’s interest in the land and personal property of the strata corporation when the strata corporation is wound up. For strata plans filed after July 1, 2000, there is no longer a schedule of interest on destruction. The formula could unfairly distribute the payout certain owners’ receive and allow investor-owners to neglect their property without consequence.
Most importantly, in addition to the Province making it easier for developers to scoop up condo properties as rental properties are demolished for high rises, The City of Burnaby’s NDP council plans to change the built form framework for Metrotown to allow high rises throughout the Area. This will incentivize the development of high rises on my low rise dominated street. The cost to a developer to purchase my unit is low, considering that they are spending up to $750,000 per unit for low-rise walk up rentals south of the Skytrain.
Thanks to poet Martin Niemöller for using is poetic structure to convey this important message.