Lowertown Echo: Protecting affordable housing

Posted February 9, 2022

An extreme cold warning was issued for Ottawa on January 20th, but that didn’t stop 30 people from gathering to protest the proposed demoviction for 641-649 Rideau St.   If Theberge Homes’ proposal is approved by City Council, five three-storey, below-market-rent apartment buildings will be demolished and replaced by a 25-storey luxury apartment building. 

This demolition will add to the serious lack of affordable housing in Ottawa as the rents in the new building will be beyond the means of the current tenants.  As the Lowertown Community Association (LCA) detailed in their letter to the City of Ottawa Planning Committee:

“This proposal would mainly offer smaller units (292 studios and 171 one bedroom), with only 18 three- bedroom units that might be suitable for larger families.  Housing options for a wide range of households are limited in Lowertown.”

Unfortunately, such demovictions are not unusual in the city and ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), who organized the rally, estimate that seven affordable-housing units are demolished for every one that is built. 

The hardy group of ACORN members, tenants and LCA members began the rally in the apartment complex’s courtyard, a little bit of green space that will also be lost to the proposed high rise.

The property managers requested the police to remove us from their property. The move to the sidewalk proved to be helpful, as motorists could now read the banners, “Tenant Rights are Human Rights” and honk in support.

It did, however, make it difficult to hear the tenants, the representative from the LCA planning committee and the ACORN members speak.  Perhaps this is symbolic of the difficulty displaced renters experience when trying to be heard by City Council. 

It has been two years since the City declared a housing emergency on January 29th, 2020.  If you would like to help turn up the volume and protect tenants and affordable housing in Lowertown, you can learn more at ottawa@acorncanada.org.

***

Karen Niven was a participant in the rally to conserve the supply of affordable housing.

***

Article by Karen Niven for Lowertown Echo

 

Sign up for ACORN's newsletter