Posted January 7, 2022
The last thing city council’s liaison for housing wants to see is rental units flattened so the land can be used for car parking, but that’s what Coun. Catherine McKenney is facing in the downtown Somerset ward.
“We can say no to another surface parking lot, and we have to,” McKenney said Thursday during a rally outside of a six-plex at 142 Nepean St., currently the subject of a demolition application filed at city hall.
“We have to fill in our surface parking lots with housing and we can’t add them,” McKenney said.
A 30-space surface parking lot is proposed to service the neighbouring office building at 190 O’Connor St., which will require parking when a parking lot on the other side of O’Connor Street at 108 Nepean St. is redeveloped into a 295-unit high-rise by Glenview and Taggart Realty.
The demolition of 142 Nepean St. is proposed by 190 O’Connor Inc., an affiliate of Glenview.
Glenview president Mark Shabinsky said the new parking lot would simply replace spaces lost because of the high-rise project with Taggart. There’s no timeline yet for the high-rise project, which also requires planning approvals, so there’s also no timeline for the demolition of 142 Nepean St., Shabinsky said.
The tenants at 142 Nepean St. have been offered relocations to either one of two nearby buildings at the same rent for two years, plus relocation costs, Shabinksy said. Two tenants have agreed to terms and one tenant has given notice of not renewing the lease, he said. Talks continue with three other tenants.
If the parking lot is approved, Glenview’s plan is to maintain it as surface parking “for the foreseeable future,” Shabinsky said.
Answering a call by social justice group ACORN, about three dozen people rallied outside of 142 Nepean St. on Thursday to voice opposition to the demolition. Ottawa Centre NDP MPP Joel Harden was also at the rally.
McKenney, who has indicated an intention to run for mayor in the October municipal election, said the city shouldn’t be adding surface parking lots downtown, especially if it means demolishing affordable homes. McKenney wants planning committee to reject the demolition application when the file hits the political agenda.
“Even if (the developer) agrees to replace everyone’s rents and units somewhere else, it’s still a net loss,” McKenney said. “We’re still tearing down six units and leaving it as a parking lot.”
McKenney said as mayor they would pursue a rental replacement bylaw to protect the number of rental homes in the private market.
Lionel Njeukam, 40, lives in a top unit of the six-plex with his wife and 18-month-old daughter. They pay $1,200 monthly in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, a great price for a large unit in Ottawa’s downtown.
Njeukam, who has lived at 142 Nepean St. for two years, worries about accepting the relocation proposal since rents in the other buildings are higher than what his family pays now.
“Our wish, really, is to stay here,” Njeukam said.
Anna Meurot, 23, said she moved into 142 Nepean St. with her partner in May 2021 and by June they found out the building was slated for demolition. A development application sign was placed outside.
“No one reached out to us. The sign just appeared. We had to guess what was going to happen,” Meurot said.
Meurot said they’re not satisfied with the relocation options. They might need to find a more expensive rental unit somewhere else, she said.
McKenney said Ottawa’s rental market can’t keep losing affordable units.
“For every one that we build of community housing, we lose seven on the private market,” McKenney said.
“It’s like digging in sand. We just don’t come out of it.”
Article by Jon Willing for the Ottawa Citizen