Posted October 23, 2020
Low-income tenants of a residential complex in Nepean are worried about the future of their homes as the city considers a Stage 3 LRT extension that would cut directly through the property.
Manor Village, a cluster of townhouses with more than 300 low-income residents, is situated on the west side of Woodroffe Avenue, where the city has mapped out a 10-kilometre elevated light rail extension from Baseline Station to Barrhaven Town Centre. The extension would require the demolition of the property, and affect other residential units in the area.
Lisa Bilow, a Manor Village tenant and member of the housing advocacy group ACORN Ottawa, said she found the proposal “insulting.”
“It’s been very emotional,” she said. “There are people that have lived here for 20 years. A lot of these people grew up together.” ACORN Ottawa has petitioned the city against the proposed plan.
Bilow said part of her concern is that she and other tenants won’t be able to find a new place to live if they’re displaced.
“We’d be losing our home,” she said. “How can you say there is an affordable housing crisis in Ottawa and then turn around and get rid of affordable housing?”
In January, Ottawa declared a housing and homelessness state of emergency in response to climbing housing costs and an overload of the city’s affordable housing wait-list, currently estimated at around 12,000.
In its proposal, the city says the affected dwellings could be redeveloped to accommodate residents displaced by the new line, but offers no specifics on how this would be achieved, nor any information on whether the new housing would be affordable. The transportation committee will consider the proposal Nov. 2.
Coun. Jeff Leiper of nearby Kitchissippi ward, who sits on the transportation committee, said the possibility of displacement is concerning, but added that the housing needs of residents will be front and centre if the proposal goes ahead.
“I would actually be fairly confident that the city would be able to make a commitment to ensuring that folks are housed in equivalent or better housing in their own neighbourhood.”
He said there isn’t much precedent for accommodating residents displaced by LRT construction, but added he is optimistic a comprehensive plan will be a priority.
The LRT extension won’t happen for several years, said Frank McKinney, the city’s program manager for environmental assessments in transportation planning. In an emailed statement, he said the project still needs funding before it can move forward. The project’s study team is reviewing public feedback and will make recommendations to city council in November.
But the housing crisis still presents concerns for housing advocates such as Kaite Burkeholder Harris, executive director of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa.
“My general feeling is that no one recognizes the level of urgency,” she said. “(The housing crisis) is not just affecting people who are low-income. Our housing costs have just increased consistently.”
She said the city is losing affordable housing faster than it can be built.
These concerns, she said, are not given enough attention when construction could lead to displacement. “These are the sorts of things that often happen, where you get going into something and you don’t necessarily see these spin-off consequences.”
For Manor Village residents, what they see as a lack of transparency from their new landlord is also heightening their uncertainty.
On Sept. 1, the property was bought by property management company Smart Living Properties, which owns more than 40 residential properties across the city.
Norma-Jean Quibell, co-chair of the Ottawa West Nepean Chapter of ACORN, said Smart Living hasn’t communicated its plans to Manor Village residents, which has raised concerns about the possibility of “renovictions.”
Recently, Manor Village residents delivered a letter to Smart Living, which included a demand for increased transparency and tenant consultations.
In a statement, Smart Living chief business officer Roland Gordon said the company intends to renovate vacant units as they become available. He said there are no further development plans until LRT plans are finalized.
He went on to say that Smart Living “is committed to open and transparent dialogue with tenants who are encouraged to contact the company directly with any questions or concerns.”
Article by Mia Jensen for Ottawa Citizen