You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker more than once since it was created by a Polish graphic designer 18 years ago – religious and peace icons used to replace letters in the word “Coexist.” The symbol has become ubiquitous with diversity and corporate social washing. Irish rock band U2 even used it during one of their world tours. Closer to home, Toronto-based mega-landlord Timbercreek might want to check the copyright on this symbol.

“We came up with this innovative symbol to showcase what we represent,” falsely claimed the longtime property manager of the Herongate neighbourhood, who worked for the previous slumlords and now works for Timbercreek, during the company’s redevelopment event on April 7th 2018. “We even printed it on pins. You can wear one if you’d like.”

Herongate is most likely the single largest contiguous area in Ottawa owned by one landlord. The landlord owns 2,000 units in this one area. Almost 5,000 people live here, although the population dropped by 300 people from 2011 to 2016 – almost the exact number of people that 80 townhouses could be home to. Wait, didn’t Timbercreek evict people from 80 townhouses in the middle of winter a few years ago?

How did one landlord come to own an entire neighbourhood in Ottawa? Minto first started building Herongate in 1966. Herongate Mall was built after to accommodate the large increase in population.

In 2007, Transglobe bought the entire Herongate neighbourhood for between $180-200 million. Transglobe drove the neighbourhood into the ground. This set the stage for Timbercreek to purchase it, tear it down, increase density and charge more rent. It’s a sure way to increase returns: kick out the people who pay low-rent, bring in higher-paying renters.

Transglobe also bought Herongate Mall in 2007 and followed the same process: become a slumlord, drive the building into the ground, change hands, evict and raise rents. While the mall was sold to RioCan and Trinity, the people’s neighbourhood was sold to Timbercreek. Thousands of low-income people’s futures are in the hands of a few of Canada’s richest developers.

Transglobe, Timbercreek, Trinity, RioCan, Starlight, Northview Apartment REIT… Who are these companies? Who is Daniel Drimmer, the man behind all of these companies? What is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)? We need answers to these questions, and we need them now.

The redevelopment of Herongate has triggered a huge amount of public outcry from people across political and socioeconomic borders. The residents of Herongate are our neighbours, our friends, and whatever happens to them affects us in Heatherington, Fairlea and Alta Vista. We are now organizing and collaborating to make sure the developers are held accountable and don’t get away with above-guideline rent increases, evictions and slum-like conditions. We will not rest until we see real change.

–Heatherington Land Trust