Burnaby City aids affordable housing effort for Black Canadians

Council votes to assist in finding land for housing initiative

Burnaby City aids affordable housing effort for Black Canadians

The City of Burnaby has agreed to assist a local nonprofit organization in finding a location for much-needed affordable housing for Black Canadians.

Burnaby City Council voted to direct city staff to work with a nonprofit affiliated with the Grace Ethiopian Evangelical Church to secure a property large enough to accommodate 50 affordable housing units, a community space, and a childcare facility.

Established in the 1990s, the church aims to help newcomers from Ethiopia and Eritrea newcomers overcome systemic barriers to housing, employment, education and healthcare through community outreach initiatives.

Pastor Mesfin Mulugeta emphasized the disproportionate need for affordable housing among Black Canadians in Burnaby, citing statistics that nearly a quarter are in core housing needs, with 80% spending over 30% of their income on housing.

“Affordable housing is the greatest need of our community, and unaffordability is forcing many of our young people to consider moving out of our beautiful province,” Mulugeta said in an interview with the Local Journalism Initiative.

Mulugeta said the proposed 50-unit affordable housing complex would require at least one acre of land. The non-profit group has raised about $500,000 so far and is seeking government funding, including from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's programs for Black Canadians.

"The part that is holding us back is the land," Mulugeta told the city committee.

During an April 8 meeting, Councillor Alison Gu asked if the housing units would be restricted to individuals with specific religious affiliations. Mulugeta assured that there would be no such restrictions and that the application process would be fair and open to the community.

Mayor Mike Hurley acknowledged the city's shortage of available land but committed to having staff identify potential sites for the affordable housing project.

"Land is getting more and more scarce, and we're certainly trying to build as much affordable housing as we possibly can," Hurley said.

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