Metro Vancouver already has a downtown for the rich. Downtown Vancouver is a model example of a space designed to facilitate interaction between luxury consumers and the things they want to buy. It is rare to find a single bedroom apartment in Vancouver's downtown for under $2000 a month, meaning if you are to pay a third of your annual earnings on rent you would have to make at least $72,000 per year after taxes (more than $30 an hour at 40 hours a week). The average salary for households in British Columbia in 2016 was $47,914, not close to enough to afford even the cheapest apartment in Vancouver's downtown. Vancouver's downtown is filled with shops, restaurants and other establishments that are part of the service industry. In 2016 the average salary for retail and service workers was $29,398, not even half the annual income to afford an apartment downtown.
As the price of rent and commodities steadily increase in downtown Vancouver, the City continues to push through an expansionist agenda that is destroying all the neighbouring communities. The new boutique businesses, large condo complexes, and fancy office spaces for professionals in the tech and design industries are making property values rise to a level that is completely unaffordable for working class, and particularly low-income people.
The clearest example of this system of social exclusion is homelessness. The 2017 homelessness count showed that in Metro Vancouver there are 3,605 people that are currently homeless. This was not always the case. According to the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless count, homelessness has increased 30% since 2014. That's an increase of 828 people in just 3 years. Another luxury downtown will not serve the majority of Metrotown residents; we do not want a downtown where we cannot afford to live, we don't want a downtown that destroys the homes we already have, we don't want another downtown for the rich.
The People's Metrotown Plan promotes the development of the historic Metrotown neighbourhood into a working class downtown. As the lowest-income and highest renter population area in Burnaby, Metrotown has historically been home to a diverse population of people including Indigenous peoples, workers, newly arrived immigrants, refugees, single-parent families, and senior and youth populations. The 2006 census found that Metrotown had the highest diversity of languages spoken at home of any community in Metro Vancouver. According to Immigrant Settlement Services, until recently Metrotown was the number one destination for newly arrived refugees, with 80% of those settling in the Lower Mainland landing in Metrotown apartments. The housing and infrastructure that is developed in Metrotown should center the needs and interests of these populations. Mayor Corrigan's Metrotown Downtown Plan will effectively erase the identity of Metrotown. If Corrigan's plan goes through, Metrotown will become yet another dull corporate retail center that looks and feels like the City of Burnaby values blind economic growth even at the cost of the stories, histories, cultures and social work of its residents.
The People's Metrotown Plan represents the interests of the community by calling on the City of Burnaby to protect renters against harm from evictions. It is focused on principles for development that center the needs and interests of the current residents of Metrotown, and pushes for policy change on the Municipal, Provincial and Federal levels that would lead to the construction of more non-market housing, including housing for Indigenous people, refugees, immigrants, single-parent families, and seniors. The People's Plan also includes proposals that will protect and foster the diverse income, language, and cultural life of the Metrotown community. These cultural and daily-life mechanisms are important, but they come second to housing security because we know that if we don't stop gentrification and displacement, we'll be planning a great neighbourhood for the wealthier residents that will replace us.
Our People's Plan begins with recommendations to government in the form of three principles for development. But while we call for the City and senior levels of government to rebuild Metrotown differently, we are not naive about the prospects for such a dramatic change. Stop Demovictions Burnaby has campaigned for changes like these for more than two years, and City Council has refused to turn their ship away from the shores of destruction of the renter community. The People's Plan is addressed to the renter community itself. The People's Plan is a call to action to the Metrotown residents who are facing demoviction and displacement: only we can save ourselves.
The heart of a working class downtown is the relationships that develop within the community. Mayor Corrigan's vision for the Metrotown area cannot offer residents of Metrotown what they want because it is designed to facilitate profit growth not community growth. The people of Metrotown want a downtown where community relations make up the fabric of the urban centre and provide support, enjoyment, and purpose for residents.
The People's Plan for Metrotown is a radical re-envisioning of what a community plan truly needs to be. The People's Plan is much more than just a City Hall development plan; it is an outline for a community fight for a world without the profit-driven policies and governance that leave working-class people in constant housing precarity and instability. The People's Plan has been drafted as a proposal for a greater world, not just greater density. It is a living document that encompasses many different perspectives, voices and values.
What joins us together is our shared experience as working class people who cannot afford to buy houses nor condos in this, one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. The housing market, whether rental or ownership, has failed to provide homes for working people, and governments have failed to develop non-market alternatives. The premise of Mayor Corrigan's Metrotown Downtown Plan is to make this problem even worse: that we should not be able to stay in our community or have a voice in determining its future; that in the name of Burnaby's progress we should be displaced for a higher-income, professional-managerial class of investors and homeowners.
The People's Plan for Metrotown begins by thinking about the future as a place of possibility not hemmed in by the limitations of what condo development corporations will agree to today. We believe a plan for the future of our community should be focused on the needs and interests of residents, not the profits of multinational condo development corporations. The People's Plan begins with our community, both those who are here already and those yet to move in, and then looks to planning tools to build the Burnaby we need.
The People's Plan for Metrotown is framed by 3 principles that centre the needs of our community and provide a foundation for development that will build a city by and for the people: