Posted September 9, 2021
The extensive redevelopment of Heron Gate heads to Ottawa city council for a vote Wednesday, but community advocates say the agreed upon "social contract" still has too many loopholes.
Plans for Heron Gate have upset residents in Alta Vista ward for the past six years ever since the first of two waves of residents were evicted from their units to make way for new development.
Owner Hazelview Investments, formerly known as Timbercreek, says it has already put $175 million into the 21-hectare wedge-shaped property where Heron and Walkley roads meet.
Under plans first filed with the city in the summer of 2019, it now intends to rebuild most of the site over the next 20 to 25 years. In the end, there would be more than three times more units — for a total of 6,427 — and all but a handful of high-rise towers would be torn down.
Community groups have long worried those new units won't be affordable and more low-income families will be pushed out, and they plan to rally at the human rights monument outside city hall before council meets Wednesday morning.
The groups lobbied for a community benefits agreement, but were not pleased with the one finally negotiated between the city and Hazelview.
"We want the council to fix this and we want them to delay the official plan amendment until we have better terms agreed, until we have a better definition of affordability that is reflective of the people who live [in Heron Gate]," said Last Mazambani, a co-chair of ACORN's south chapter, and a former resident of Heron Gate.
According to the memorandum of understanding, 1,020 units would be offered at capped rents for 15 or 20 years, and existing residents whose homes are being demolished would be relocated to new or renovated units at the same rent.
The social contract — a first for both the City of Ottawa and for Hazelview — was tweaked by the area's councillor, Jean Cloutier, at planning committee on Aug. 26, and approved in a vote.
Need for 'more and better' housing
"They're wood-framed homes that were built many, many decades ago, and the need for more and better housing is there," said Colleen Krempulec, vice-president of brand marketing and corporate social responsibility with Hazelview.
Still, ACORN says large families could be forced to live in high-rise apartments, and families could face rent increases after Hazelview's promise to keep new units affordable for 15 years runs out.
Heading into the final vote at city council, the company says no resident will face a steep rent increase after the 15-year affordability promise expires, and that commitment will be written into their lease.
Several motions are expected to hit the council table in bids to further amend the social contract and address community concerns.
For Hazelview, any further amendments could change its plans.
"The project and the application that we have brought forward ... is what we're able to deliver on while being able to remain economically viable, but we feel it also addresses what we've heard from the community," Krempulec said.
If approved, the company plans to start construction in the second half of 2022 on the land fronting Heron Road where buildings have already been torn down, she added.
Article by Kate Porter for CBC News