Posted February 19, 2019
First of all, I want to thank Your Community Voice – Ottawa South for your excellent ongoing coverage of all things Heron Gate. Although the news to date has not been good, it has been accurate. However, I do see a faint light at the end of the tunnel. From reading your front page Jan. 31 article “Residents soon to get first look at Heron Gate of the future” it appears that Coun. Cloutier has been listening.
In the article he talks about “rejuvenating that community” and states that “social infrastructure must also be considered in the (Secondary) Plan.” Anyone who has lived or lives in Heron Gate would be forgiven for taking exception to this comment. I have spoken with many tenants who love this community and find it to be supportive and nurturing … and already rejuvenating.
However, I digress.
The article raises several key questions. The councillor says we must develop a “mechanism to ensure that evicted tenants are given a chance to stay within their neighbourhood” and he goes on to say that the city is exploring legal avenues to ensure that tenants have a right to return to the community. I would add to “affordable family sized housing units.”
I have good news. There are several major initiatives in the works that can deal with many of the concerns raised by the people of Heron Gate, as well as by the councillor.
First of all, I suggest everyone look at and that the councillor support Ottawa ACORN’s “Healthy Homes Platform.” To summarize, ACORN members want:
1. Landlord licensing
2. Rental replacement bylaws and no winter evictions in the case of redevelopment
3. Inclusionary zoning.
Space does not allow me to discuss at length these three important asks. One only needs to look to the City of Toronto, which has implemented all three strategies to protect tenants and preserve affordability. It’s time for the City of Ottawa to get caught up.
I would suggest that while the issue of a landlord licensing policy works its way through the city bureaucracy, that Coun. Cloutier ask city council to implement a Proactive-Bylaw (property standards to be specific) Enforcement program for Heron Gate. This has been implemented in the past to deal with chronic problem properties and landlords. Does anyone doubt that Heron Gate would qualify?
Secondly, I am very excited about a recent initiative of Ottawa ACORN and the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre to facilitate the residents of Heron Gate in developing the first “Community Benefits Agreement” in Ottawa.
Community benefits leverage public and private investments in communities to create decent work, affordable housing, and social infrastructure that improve the quality of life for all community members.
Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) are legally binding contractual agreements negotiated between a community coalition and developers to ensure that impacted residents can share the benefits of a development without having to fear displacement. CBAs are a much broader approach to community planning than your typical bricks and mortar focus.
The Parkdale community in Toronto just completed the “Parkdale Community Benefits Framework– Guide for Development without Displacement” to help frame CBAs in their community.
Their vision contains five collective principles: equitable process, affordable housing, affordable commercial, decent work, community assets.
What will Heron Gate’s vision and principles be? I can’t wait to find out.
Riverside Park resident George Brown is a lawyer and former Ottawa city councillor.
Op-Ed by George Brown for Your Community Voice - Ottawa South (page 6)