Housing affordability within complete communities: A descriptive case study of Metrotown Town Centre

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The 1976 Livable Region Strategy outlined a vision for the Metro Vancouver region which would focus development and growth on strategically placed Regional Town Centres. Metrotown, a community in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, was one of four initial Regional Town Centres created as part of the 1976 Livable Region Strategy. Over the next 40 years Metrotown emerged as one of the most developed Regional Town Centres outside of Vancouver’s Downtown Core. Part of the reason for Metrotown’s success as a Regional Town Centre is the City of Burnaby’s commitment to developing Metrotown as a complete community. Metrotown is a community known for its high-density urban form, access to high quality rapid transit, and being well serviced by community amenities. However, I argue in this thesis that one aspect of the complete community ideal has been lost in Burnaby’s pursuit of creating a complete community at Metrotown, and that is the concept of housing affordability. I argue further that this disconnect between housing affordability and complete community principles at Metrotown has resulted in the displacement of residents through demovictions.In this research I use quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze how Metrotown performs as a community that embodies housing affordability and complete community principles. I then use these methods to illustrate how the disconnect between housing affordability and complete communities at Metrotown has been occurring. I arrive at the conclusion that, at the turn of the millennium, Burnaby began along a path of development for Metrotown that laid the foundation for Metrotown’s explosive growth we see today. This growth, however, has come at the cost of housing affordability in the community and the displacement of renters through the process of demovictions across Metrotown. My research will be useful as a case study for urban planners and academics interested in the housing affordability outcomes of urban intensification schemes like complete communities. My research is also applicable to communities that are similar to Metrotown where difficult social and political decisions must be made to balance development and growth pressures while preserving affordable rental housing stock.
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