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Ottawa Citizen: Planning committee struggles for ‘balance’ in redevelopment projects kicking out tenants - ACORN Canada

Ottawa Citizen: Planning committee struggles for ‘balance’ in redevelopment projects kicking out tenants

Posted January 29, 2022

Posted on January 29, 2021

The city doesn’t yet have an inclusionary zoning policy that mandates affordable housing in new developments.

The city’s planning committee has entered new territory trying to protect tenants of affordable homes while considering proposals that would add more units in redevelopment schemes, a committee co-chair says.

Coun. Glen Gower says the city is “flying blind” trying to help tenants of buildings slated for demolition to make way for new residential developments, which boost the number of homes through intensification.

“There’s also a human impact to that and I think this is an area all of us are trying to find the right balance,” Gower said during a committee meeting Thursday before councillors approved a development application for 641 Rideau St., just west of the Rideau River.

Theberge Homes proposes a 25-storey, 311-unit apartment tower with a four-level, 228-spot underground parking garage. The project, which has the support of city planning staff, requires amendments to the zoning bylaw and official plan to allow the proposed high rise and density.

There are currently five three-storey apartment buildings on the site that would need to be demolished. Those units have rents in the $1,500 range, property owner Joey Theberge said.

The committee heard from one of the tenants, Darin Lowey, who dismissed the redevelopment plan as a “demoviction.”

Lowey, who has lived there for 18 years, said rental prices for comparable units were unaffordable.

“Working-class people shouldn’t live in fear of homelessness,” Lowey said.

People who live on the south side of Rideau Street also aren’t thrilled about the development.

Andrea Harrison said the historic triplex she owns with her husband is directly across the street from the development site.

Harrison said the construction would create turmoil for them and their tenants and the new tower would loom over the community

“It will shut down the last piece of northern skyline in the area,” Harrison said.

“It will overpower anything in the area,” added Michael Barnes, a board member of Action Sandy Hill.

Coun. Shawn Menard said he was less concerned about the height than the displacement of tenants at the current apartments.

“There should be affordable housing here,” Menard said.

The city doesn’t yet have an inclusionary zoning policy that mandates affordable housing in new developments.

While a $797,933 agreement under Section 37 of the Ontario Planning Act would help improve parks, road safety and cycling/pedestrian connections in the area, Menard said he was disappointed there was no contribution to an affordable housing fund.

However, Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who represents the area, helped strike a deal with the developer.

There’s no official planning mechanism the city can use to force a developer to make commitments for existing tenants, but Theberge expressed support for subsidizing tenants’ rent differential at other units for one year, covering their relocation costs and giving them the right of first refusal on units in the new tower.

Committee members pushed harder for more tenant protections.

Coun. Jeff Leiper wanted Theberge to cover tenants’ rent differential for five years, while Menard wanted the developer to match the length of the rent differential payments to the time tenants have lived in the existing apartments.

Theberge said most of the units were rented by students for short periods.

The details of the memorandum of understanding still need to be worked out before council considers the staff-recommended planning amendments.

Menard was the only committee member who dissented on the staff recommendations, but he said he might change his vote when the application comes to council on Feb. 9, based on what’s in the memorandum of understanding.

Social justice organization ACORN has rallied against redevelopment projects that remove affordable homes from the rental market.

The planning committee is also expected to consider an application by a different developer to demolish a low-rise apartment on Nepean Street in Centretown to allow a parking lot . In that case, the developer is offering tenants the same rent price for two years at units in other buildings, plus relocation expenses.


Article by Jon Willing for Ottawa Citizen




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