Ottawa’s planning committee has approved the demolition of a six-unit apartment building to make way for a parking lot with 30 spaces.
The proposal for the demolition of the 70-year-old building at 142 Nepean Street was linked to plans for a 300-unit residential tower at 108 Nepean Street, which is being developed by the Taggart Group.
Lionel Njeukam, who’s been a resident at 142 Nepean for the past two and half years, was disappointed by the Thursday’s 8-4 planning committee vote.
“The reality is that people are being pushed away from the city core just because we’re building those very luxury apartment buildings and tearing down the old ones, ” Njeukam told Alan Neal, host of CBC’s All in a Day.
Njeukam is one of two tenants who took up the developer’s offer for a comparable unit nearby because he doesn’t want to leave Centretown where his daughter attends daycare. However, he’s concerned about the larger implications of the loss of units with below-market rents.
“We shouldn’t forget the less fortunate who cannot afford an expensive rent,” he said.
Compensation for tenants
Derek Howe, vice-president of development at Taggart Group, told the committee the developer had made “extraordinary” efforts for the current tenants.
Their offer included comparable units nearby at the current rent for five years, moving costs, a $15,000 lump sum for incidental costs and the first right of refusal for comparable units in the new tower.
“We’re going above and beyond anything we’ve done before and anything we’ve ever heard of in the City of Ottawa,” Howe said.
He bristled at the suggestion the proposal would replace housing with surface parking. Rather, he called it the relocation of an existing lot with 50 spots and a net reduction to 30, in support of a development that will have 25 affordable units.
The 27-storey tower slated for 108 Nepean includes an underground garage with 166 parking spaces.
Howe also said the developer had considered leasing nearby parking lots as an alternative but was told the owners of those lots were contemplating “some form of redevelopment.”
During the committee meeting, councillors Cathy Curry and Keith Egli pressed Howe to include a clause in the offer to protect tenants from their rent “ballooning” after the initial period of the agreement.
Howe agreed to pin future rent hikes to the provincial cap on yearly rent increases after the fifth year.
Concern over loss of affordable units
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who represents the area and is running for mayor, said the issue isn’t just the displacement of the people who live at 142 Nepean Street.
“It’s about the loss, the permanent loss, of six units,” said McKenney, who doesn’t have a vote on the committee.
“There is ample surface parking within a two-block radius, but there is not ample housing.”
McKenney said they have no objection to the 108 Nepean Street tower proposal, but knocking down a building with affordable units should not be a trade-off for that development.
“These applications should never have been linked,” they said.
“We need to look at what’s in front of us based just on the merits of: should we allow for the demolition of a six-unit apartment building anywhere in the city, in particular in the downtown, for surface parking? The answer to that is no.”
The proposal goes to city council on Wednesday, August 31.
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