Community Fights Winter Evictions
contributed by Ottawa ACORN
The neighbourhood in Herongate is a close-knit community. People know each other and look out for their neighbours. As you walk through the townhomes you see children playing and parents chatting. It's the kind of neighbourhood that you rarely get to see in big cities. The community is diverse, with people hailing from all over the world. What ties them all together is the fact that they are all low-income Canadians.
Left to right: Abduhalli Ali, Mavis Finnamore, Magda Ibrihim at a planning meeting in Herongate, November 17, 2015. Photo courtesy of Ottawa ACORN.
Herongate is affordable market housing and family housing. It is one of the only remaining neighbourhoods in the city that can accommodate families with accessible market rent. And it's being torn apart. Timbercreek Asset Management, the owners of the property, are mass evicting 80 townhomes at the end of February 2016. The move is both surprising and cruel since there was no consultation with the community. It is also completely legal.
So who is to be held to task?
Affordable housing in Ottawa continues to be a major problem in our city, and it continues to be sidestepped by city hall. As the industry of real estate drives forward with more new condo developments, it continues to demolish large volumes of affordable housing in the city's centre. These new developments do not leave space for low-income residents, who are being pushed further afield to find affordable homes with enough liveable space.
City services are supposed to have availability with city housing, but the wait list for housing is years long. What few spaces there are tend to be in the suburbs and inaccessible or arduous via public transportation. With the loss of 80 affordable townhomes in Herongate, that means the city will have 80 more families vying for the few city houses available, pushing the wait list potentially years longer.
The city could step in and stop the winter evictions. They have the power to do so but are choosing not to. The city is turning its back on the most perilously placed residents and allowing big business to control the outcome.
Timbercreek Asset Management has not filed permits or papers with the city disclosing their plans (to our knowledge).
Ottawa ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) wants Ottawans to pay attention to this debacle. Where are these families to go? Why has the city not put a stop to this egregious winter eviction process?
Some members of Ottawa ACORN had this to say at a recent community meeting:
"My oldest daughter is in her final year of high school. What will a transfer mid-second semester mean for her schooling?" said Magda Ibrihim, member of ACORN and parent.
"A move in the winter is next to impossible with the resources available to me and my neighbours. I can't afford movers -- none of us can," said Mavis Finnamore, Chair of South Ottawa ACORN.
The city needs to listen and intervene. Tenants deserve rights. Affordable housing should be accessible to all who need it, and winter evictions should never happen in Canada.
The PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.
Thank you to Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for sponsoring the Winter 2015-2016 edition of the PEN.