The following is a response to the Alta Vista ward councillor Jean Cloutier’s op-ed in the Citizen:

If we’re after a solid plan for Herongate, let’s stop the destruction of affordable housing. We are now fighting for the renovation of these homes and to keep them affordable to low-income families. Not one more family or individual should be evicted and have to witness the destruction of their home to make way for high rents and young professionals.

At Timbercreek’s most recent redevelopment event, the very last point listed in the urban planner’s presentation was that affordable housing had been identified as a priority. And it’s true, Timbercreek’s priority is indeed affordable housing. Specifically, the destruction of affordable housing.

In the dead of winter 2016, Timbercreek evicted hundreds of low-income people and families from 80 townhouses in Herongate in the interest of building “resort-style apartments.” These buildings are already under construction. Timbercreek’s plan for the rest of their property will follow suit.

Herongate already has one of the highest rates of core housing need in the city, while the city on a whole has a severe lack of affordable housing, to the point where we spend millions of dollars a year to house people in motels. Why are we letting some of the last affordable townhouses in the city get demolished? Where do these families go?

Alta Vista Councillor Jean Clouthier, who has jurisdiction over Herongate, is supporting the destruction of decent, affordable housing for families and individuals. Many of these families are new immigrants and face countless hurdles in establishing themselves. Having their lives uprooted and facing homelessness because their home gets destroyed by the developer only further entrenches the cycle of poverty.

In 2007, Transglobe bought the entire 22-hectare neighbourhood of 4,000-plus residents for between $180-200 million from Minto. Transglobe quickly passed the property on to a number of intermediaries before Timbercreek acquired it in 2013. Of course, no company spends $200 million dollars without a mid to long-term plan. It is clear the developers’ 10-year plan was to run the neighbourhood into the ground through purposeful neglect. And once the homes were falling apart and infested with bedbugs, cockroaches and mold, and the common areas were dangerous to walk through alone, the developers could claim they were engaged in “revitalization” and “community building.”

Back in the 1960s and 70s, this same process of so-called slum clearing was employed under the banner of “modernization” and “progress.” Why are we fighting the same battles over again?

In the 1980s in Montreal, CMHC undertook the largest housing renovation project in Canada’s history. Like in Herongate, one landlord owned thousands of homes and wanted to demolish them to build “the neighbourhood of the future.” The residents of Milton-Parc fought hard and long and the developer eventually backed down. The land and housing is now in the hands of the community and it remains a family-friendly, extremely affordable and vibrant neighbourhood.

The residents of Herongate, Heatherington and Alta Vista are working together to help our neighbours in this time of crisis. Our group, Heatherington Land Trust, wants to ensure that housing stays permanently affordable and that whatever new capital is pumped into our neighbourhood benefits the people who currently live here, not higher-paying renters who will displace the families and individuals who have spent decades building a healthy, vibrant community. We are fighting for community ownership of a vacant lot in our neighbourhood so we can build permanent housing that is affordable to low-income people who are being displaced across the city. The city needs an innovative approach to affordable housing. A community land trust is an advanced solution to addressing the needs of our citizens and would put Ottawa on the international map. It’s time we get serious about housing.