Town Planning Committee OK’s Heron Gate redevelopment plan change

The proposal now goes to full city council.

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The City of Ottawa’s Planning Committee has approved an official plan change that will allow the controversial redevelopment of Heron Gate to proceed.

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25 delegations had signed up to speak with the planning committee on Thursday about whether they would approve an agreement with Hazelview, formerly Timbercreek.

The meeting lasted seven hours and went in depth with questions about the definition of affordable housing and what Ottawa could do to help its most vulnerable residents.

Heron Gate, a 21-acre property north of Walkley Road and south of Heron Road, has been controversial since Timbercreek began buying properties in 2012. Homes were demolished and their occupants thrown out, attracting national attention. Many of the vulnerable were recent immigrants, poor and colored.

Hazelview plans to build 6,427 housing units, increasing the intensification of the neighborhood. The agreement will allow 1,400 more units than currently allowed.

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A memorandum of understanding between the city and Hazelview, released Aug. 16, provided a guarantee that 16 percent of future developments would be preserved as affordable housing. 559 families living in terraced houses planned for demolition are offered similar housing for the same rent.

But the “social contract” with Hazelview, unprecedented in Ottawa as a deal with a private company, also limits the time the new entities will remain “affordable.”

Many speakers urged the city to ask for more of the memorandum, arguing that Hazelview’s definition of “affordable” was only in line with the city’s median income of $ 109,500.

Marty Carr, president of the Alta Vista Community Association, said the 2016 census listed the median income for Heron Gate at $ 38,766.

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“There has to be a bigger warranty than in 10 years,” Carr said. “There are people living in these (units to be demolished) who do not even know they will be destroyed.”

One of the speakers, a 12-year-old girl named Jimale, said she lived in Heron Gate in a three-bedroom unit with her family of 10, including a sister in a wheelchair. The family pays $ 1,580 a month in rent. They do not want to move to a high-rise building, she said.

Others pointed out that there was no right of return for those already thrown out and the units would only remain “affordable” for 10-15 years.

Mavis Finnamore, a former Heron Gate resident who was evicted in 2016, said the memo offered little to existing tenants and nothing to those who had already been evicted.

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“The poor will always be with us. Why should we pretend that they will evaporate in 10 or 15 years? ”

While the social contract mentioned elements such as social enterprise and the development of labor in the neighborhood, it did not go far enough, said George Brown, a lawyer for the tenants’ lawyer group ACORN, who urged councilors to postpone the approval of the social contract until 6 p.m. it was spelled better.

“This is a beginning, but it’s not enough,” he said.

“You have them now,” Paul Howard, who grew up in Heron Gate and is now a volunteer in the community, told council members. “They do not want to cancel this project. Ask for more. Get more.”

Men Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier, whose department includes Heron Gate, argued that the note is legally binding and will help address housing shortages.

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Antonio Gomez-Palacio, an urban planner working with Hazelview, acknowledged that affordability was a critical issue, but added that the agreement was an example of a private company stepping up to the plate to create new rental housing in Ottawa. The agreement also includes other benefits, such as a new park at the center of the development, which will be connected to an existing park by a green corridor, he said.

“Hazelview remains committed to affordable prices, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver,” Gomez-Palacio said.

Other councilors recalled the bitter story between Hazelview and its predecessor and residents who struggled with evictions and poor maintenance.

“Do not pretend to do this out of the goodness of your heart,” Coun in the capital. Shawn Menard told Hazelview representatives. “There has to be a better deal on your end.”

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But city leaders assured councilors that a voluntary agreement that added more homes to average market rents was a good deal for the city.

The city often does not have a baseline for negotiations, and the memorandum of understanding offers it on a voluntary basis, said Saide Sayah, who manages affordable housing in housing services.

The fact that the city could get units on the market would be useful, said Lee Ann Snedden, its director of planning.

“I think this is a good starting point,” Snedden said. “We really need to move on.”

If the council refuses the official plan change, it will terminate the application.

Menard was one of three councilors who voted against the change.

“What has happened has been a travesty,” said Menard, who added that he hoped Hazelview would return to the table to renegotiate if there was more pressure. “We must do everything we can to be on the side of our residents.”

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper reiterated others at the meeting who called the development “slow motion gentrification” and noted that the city had little influence in defending the residents, apart from the official plan change.

“All eyes will be on Ottawa,” Leiper said. “Someone has to stand up for these residents.”

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