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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The municipal role in housing : a case study of Burnaby, British Columbia McKay, Lauri A.


Research on housing policy in Canada has been directed primarily towards the analysis of the policies made at the senior levels of government. As a result, there is abundant literature concerning the roles of the federal and provincial governments in housing. In contrast, little attention has focused on the municipal role. The need for studies that examine municipal involvement in housing policy and provision has become increasingly apparent in recent years, as many local governtments have begun to try to expand their role in housing beyond the traditional tasks of zoning and collecting property taxes. This thesis presents a case study of one municipality's experiences in planning for housing. Over the past three decades, housing problems have received a great deal of attention on the public agenda in Burnaby. In particular, three categories or types of housing problems have predominated since 1960; namely, apartment development, social housing, and residential intensification. This research revealed that these housing problems have reached the municipal agenda on a recurrent basis and are all related to the disparity between two apparently contradictory goals: the goal of preserving the status quo in existing single family neighbourhoods and the goal of encouraging and facilitating the development of a diversity of housing options for present and future residents of the Municipality. This thesis examines the process by which each of the three categories of housing problems has reached the municipal agenda and how the community has responded. An analytic framework is initially used to study the nature and complexity of the housing problems which have reached Burnaby's public agenda. By outlining the various stages in the lifecycle of a social problem, this framework made it possible to identify the origins of Burnaby's housing policies by tracing the housing issues through their initial recognition in the community as problems to the measures which were taken to alleviate them. There is a striking feature evident in the examination of housing problems on Burnaby's public agenda. At least once in every decade, the Municipality and the Region as a whole, are faced with what is widely defined as a "housing crisis". This case study suggests that the perception of a "housing crisis" in Burnaby appears to be related to periods of rapid growth in the Region during which time housing problems affect a large number of lower and middle income households. Similar to many other Canadian municipalities, the role of Burnaby in housing has been quite limited, restricted primarily to regulatory and zoning functions. Burnaby will continue to experience increased pressures for rapid growth and change due to its central location within the larger Metropolitan Area. There will come a point in the near future when the Municipality of Burnaby will have to seriously consider the expansion of its role in all aspects of housing. It is hoped that this study provides a useful analysis and summary of information about the Municipality's past role in housing. For understanding past events and policy decisions is essential to the development of better policies in the future.

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