Desi Today Q&A with Mayor Mike Hurley, City of Burnaby
How has been your journey so far as the new mayor of Burnaby? How has been the council’s support in moving forward with your decisions?
In the months since Burnaby voters elected me as Mayor, I have been impressed with the support and professionalism of Councillors and City staff who want to fulfill our campaign promises. We are also continuing to deliver priorities of the former Council that will help ensure we continue to have a high quality of life in Burnaby.
The key issue that drove municipal elections in Burnaby was demovictions. What is your take on it? What are some of the steps that you have already taken and plan to take to act on the issue especially accommodating those who are being moved out?
The loss of affordable homes through demolitions and the impact on people facing homelessness is the core reason I ran for Mayor. That is why we are not advancing any further major developments that would displace tenants until affordable housing or alternatives can be found for them.
Real, practical solutions for people in need of housing are moving forward.The City of Burnaby is finding opportunities to work in partnership with federal and provincial governments, non-profit housing providers and the development community.
Those important projects include 20 new units of housing for women and children in vulnerable situationsthat we are developing in partnership with the province of BC and Dixon Transition Society. We are also partners in building 150 new rental homes for seniors and low-income residentsat Hastings Street and 18th Avenue.
When winter temperatures dropped sharply in December, we moved quickly to open four warming centres – the first time in history that the City has provided safe, warm places for its most vulnerable residents. These overnight centres are open every night until March 31.
We are in the final stages of re-zoning to build 52 transitional homes on Norland Avenue in cooperation with BC Housing. The goal is to help people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes to move to more permanent solutions. We are also planning for a facility that will provide temporary shelter for the homeless at all hours of the day, not just at night.
Further efforts to house our most vulnerable citizens will include working with the Task Force on Homelessness, the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, and the Progressive Housing Society’s Homeless Outreach Program.
Apart from demovictions, what plan do you have to deal with housing affordability in Burnaby, which is actually pushing a lot of population away from the city?
Finding ways to build housing that people can afford is one of the biggest challenges communities like Burnaby face today. My approach includes creating a Mayor’s Task Force on Housing that will develop recommendations on short- and long-term solutions for people affected by new development construction.
We want to ensure that the needs of residents from all stages of life and income levels are considered — families, young people, older residents, working people who struggle to afford what they need, and people with disabilities.
To ensure transparency and open dialogue Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue will serve as a third-party facilitator to the Mayor’s Housing Task Force in partnership with the City of Burnaby.
The Centre for Dialogue will design a public engagement strategy with a focus on enabling creativity and ensuring there are meaningful opportunities for discussion of even the most challenging issues.
The strategy will include an integral role for residents in the decision-making process so the needs of people in Burnaby come first. Special efforts will be made to overcome barriers some people face so they can participate in this important dialogue.
What are some other projects in store for the city that you want to prioritize?
Priority projects for the coming years range from public safety enhancements to building a new Burnaby arena to working with the provincial government to redevelop Burnaby General Hospital.
The list of priorities includes:
- Making public spaces safer by adding new lighting and more security cameras, improving the condition and accessibility of sidewalks and public facilities, increasing the police budget to improve response times, and enhancing the police school liaison program.
- Streamlining interactions with City Hall by enabling online payments, enhancing City maps, and providing one-stop access to property information.
- Adding more Burnaby Library programs that use robotics, coding tools and virtual reality headsets, and taking the library into the community.
- Holding two City Council meetings in the community this year.
- Updating the Burnaby Transportation Plan.
- Expanding urban trails so more people can choose to walk or cycle.
- Completing the LED streetlight project – Burnaby will be the first city in Metro Vancouver to completely convert to LED street lights, saving nearly a half-million dollars and reducing our eco-footprint.
- Ensuring new developments include charging stations for electric vehicles.
- Building two new child care centres with 25 spaces each, set to open this fall at Capitol Hill and Montecito elementary schools. A third centre is planned for Stride Avenue Community School.
- Construction on a new South Burnaby Arena with two NHL-sized rinks is set to start this fall and preliminary work is underway on four other recreation facilities. They are :
- CG Brown Memorial Pool and Burnaby Lake Ice Arena replacement
- Willingdon Heights Community Centre
- Confederation Park/Eileen Dailly Pool with additional recreation space
- Cameron Recreation Centre and Library Replacement
What is your vision for the city of Burnaby during your tenure?
My vision for the City of Burnaby is to provide a high quality of life for Burnaby residents. We have the energy, compassion and resources to meet the needs of our growing communities in a way that ensures people have what they need to flourish.
I am very grateful for the trust that Burnaby citizens have placed in me and promise to continue to deliver the programs and initiatives that are so important to our quality of life.