City Planning Committee OK’s Heron Gate Redevelopment Plan Change

The proposal now goes to the full city council.

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

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Twenty-five delegations had signed up on Thursday to speak with the planning committee about whether or not to approve an agreement with Hazelview, formerly Timbercreek.

The seven-hour meeting addressed questions about the definition of affordable housing and what Ottawa could do to help its most vulnerable residents.

Heron Gate, a 21-acre estate north of Walkley Road and south of Heron Road, has been controversial since Timbercreek began buying up real estate in 2012. Homes were demolished and their residents evicted, attracting national attention. Many of the evicted were recent immigrants, poor and people of color.

Hazelview plans to build 6,427 homes, making the neighborhood more intense. The agreement will allow 1,400 more units than is currently allowed.

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A memorandum of understanding between the city and Hazelview, released Aug. 16, offered a guarantee that 16 percent of future development would be retained as affordable housing. Also, 559 families living in townhouses that are slated to be demolished will be offered equivalent housing at 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 units remain “affordable”.

Numerous speakers urged the city to ask for more of the memorandum, arguing that Hazelview’s definition of “affordable” only matched 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 10 years,” Carr said. “There are people living in these[units to be demolished]who don’t even know they’re going to 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 per month in rent. They don’t want to move to a high-rise building, she said.

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

Mavis Finnamore, a former Heron Gate resident who was evicted in 2016, said the memorandum offered little to existing tenants and nothing to those already 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 entrepreneurship and neighborhood workforce development, it didn’t go far enough, said George Brown, a lawyer for the tenants’ organization ACORN, who urged councilors to delay the approval of the social contract until it was approved. better defined.

“This is a start, but it is not enough,” he said.

“You’ve got them now,” Paul Howard, who grew up in Heron Gate and now volunteers with the community, told councilors. “They will not cancel this project. Ask for more. Get more.”

But Alta Vista count. Jean Cloutier, whose division includes Heron Gate, argued that the memorandum is legally binding and will help reduce the housing shortage.

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Antonio Gomez-Palacio, an urban planner working with Hazelview, acknowledged affordability was a critical issue, but added that the agreement was an example of a private company acting to create new rental properties 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 via a green corridor, he said.

“Hazelview remains committed to affordability even as it becomes increasingly difficult to deliver,” said Gomez-Palacio.

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

“Don’t act like you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart,” Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard told representatives from Hazelview. “There’s got to be a better deal coming your way.”

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But city managers assured council members that a voluntary agreement to add more homes at average market rents was a good deal for the city.

The city often lacks a basis for negotiations, and the memorandum of understanding offers that on a voluntary basis, said Saide Sayah, who runs the affordable housing arm of housing services.

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

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

If the municipality rejects the official plan change, it will terminate the application.

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

“What happened has been a travesty,” said Menard, adding that he hoped Hazelview would come back to renegotiate when pressure increased. “We must do everything we can to be on the side of our residents.”

Kitchissippi Count. At the meeting, Jeff Leiper echoed others who called the development “slow-motion gentrification,” noting that the city had little leverage to defend residents beyond the official change of plan.

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

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