Council letter to feds on Urban Renewal Site gets response–a year later
Judging by a recent exchange of letters, it's perhaps no wonder that the Urban Renewal Site, that block-long patch of grass at 3802 Hastings St. in North Burnaby, has remained undeveloped for the past 40-plus years.
The property is owned by all three levels of government. Burnaby has approved spending $30,000 on a feasibility study into developing the land with non-market housing and BC Housing has committed to contributing a matching amount.
Back on July 28, 2011, Mayor Derek Corrigan wrote to Diane Finley, the federal minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) asking CMHC to contribute $10,000 to the costs of the study.
Burnaby City Hall finally got an answer, dated July 16, 2012, almost a year later.
CMHC president Karen Kinsley wrote that the city can apply for a grant and loan from its Seed Funding program, and an interest-free loan from its Proposal Development Funding program.
And while CMHC is "supportive" of the non-market housing concept, its mandate doesn't allow it to become an active partner in such a development, Kinsley said.
"Indeed, CMHC's current mandate restricts its direct involvement with any Urban Renewal properties to the sale or lease of its interest at fair market values or rates."
Coun. Colleen Jordan, chair of the city's Community Development Committee, scoffed, "They'll sell us the land they've sat on for 40 years."
She noted that the value of the federal share of the property has likely increased since the city first wrote its letter a year ago. Jordan suggested CMHC should rename itself "because they're not doing anything about housing."
Burnaby will be going ahead with the feasibility study and will reimburse the city if it is successful in its federal grant applications, she said.
"It's important that people in the community advocating for housing from cities understand what we're up against," said Corrigan. "It makes it extremely difficult."