Posted June 7, 2021
With just weeks to go before plans for the redevelopment of Ottawa's Heron Gate community head to city hall for approval, advocates for tenants facing eviction say the developer has yet to sign a "social contract" with the city.
The legally binding agreement between the city and Hazelview Investments, previously known as Timbercreek, would be a first in Ottawa, and would tie the developer to five community commitments.
For advocacy group ACORN, the most important of those is a promise not to demolish any more units until tenants can be rehoused in new units at the same rent.
A second commitment would see 20 per cent affordable housing in a redeveloped Heron Gate, though ACORN would like to see 35 per cent.
"People don't trust Timbercreek now because of what has happened in the past," said ACORN advocate Mavis Finnamore.
Heron Gate residents have been forced to leave their affordable units in two mass evictions. Finnamore had to move after receiving her notice back in 2015, but has continued to fight for those who remain.
She'll take part in a noon-hour rally on Saturday to push for the social contract to become part of any planning committee approval.
Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier said the evictions were traumatic for residents, and he wants to keep the community as intact as possible.
"Hazelview has to sign on the dotted line. Hazelview has to commit to those affordable housing units in Heron Gate, and they have to do so now," said Cloutier.
Cloutier said he has slideshows and notes from community meetings over the past two years in which Hazelview made promises, but he has yet to see a final, legally binding document.
Time is getting tight. The vision for Heron Gate's redevelopment could land at Ottawa's planning committee on June 24 or July 8.
"We continue to work earnestly with the City of Ottawa to finalize the details of the Heron Gate master plan along with a social framework that meets the current and future needs of the community, the city and Hazelview," said Colleen Krempulec, Hazelview's vice-president of brand marketing and corporate social responsibility.
"We are invested in this neighbourhood and remain committed to supporting a sustainable, affordable and diverse community that supports the long term viability of Heron Gate."
Social contract a roadmap to follow
"The social contract is a big ask. It is groundbreaking. It is far-reaching. I understand that," said Cloutier. But he points out Hazelview is asking the city for significant changes to allow more than 50 new buildings and 6,400 new residential units at Heron Gate.
The contract, which would commit Hazelview to build affordable housing with large family units, provide training opportunities for residents and include green space in its plans, could become a roadmap for other developments to follow, Cloutier said.
Finnamore said she also hopes Heron Gate can set a precedent for other areas, such as homes near Woodroffe Avenue "facing knockdown and development" when Stage 3 of light rail is built.
"Nobody wants to be out there tenting in the park," she said.
Article by Kate Porter for CBC News