Ottawa council approves Barrhaven LRT route, putting 120 homes in jeopardy

Some 120 homes are at risk of expropriation and demolition to make way for Stage 3 of light-rail transit to Barrhaven after council approved staff’s preferred route for the track in a vote Wednesday.

The route would see an eventual extension of LRT connecting Baseline Station to Nepean Sportsplex pass through the current site of the Manor Village and Cheryl Gardens neighbourhoods.

Alternative routes that could’ve seen the track pass overtop Woodroffe Avenue would have to curve and would therefore result in more noise and increased wear and tear on the tracks but would not have required the demolition of any homes.

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Councillors voted 18 yays to four nays in favour of staff’s preferred alignment.

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Council also established a working group looking to long-term housing solutions for the residents who would be displaced by the “demoviction.”

Housing advocates with ACORN Ottawa and residents of the Manor Village community have rallied in recent months to push council for a different route that would save their homes.

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Delegations speaking at Ottawa’s transportation committee earlier this month noted that the LRT construction would not only remove relatively affordable rental units from a city facing a housing and homelessness crisis, but would destroy a community that residents have come to rely on.

“They are frightened about losing their affordable housing. Housing does not exist that can absorb them,” said Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney during Wednesday’s meeting.

Ottawa’s plans for Stage 3 LRT do not yet have federal or provincial funding commitments, pushing the threat of demolition many years away.

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But the spectre of redevelopment also floats over Manor Village from its new owner, Smart Living Properties, which purchased the property in September.

Stephen Willis, the city’s general manager of planning and development, said staff have had recent discussions with the landowner that suggest Smart Living will seek to redevelop and intensify the site in the coming years.

A Smart Living spokesperson has previously told Global News the property owner is focusing on improvements to existing units while it awaits clarity on the city’s LRT plans. The company did not provide comment on any future plans by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, whose ward includes the affected neighbourhoods, said Wednesday he has heard from Smart Living that the property owner will not move forward with any evictions during the winter amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Egli also had a motion approved yesterday that directed staff to explore affordable housing opportunities at 40 Beechcliffe St., a nearby plot of city-owned land adjacent to the proposed LRT route. Shifting displaced residents from the expropriated neighbourhoods to a possible development here “can be part of the solution” to find homes for these families, Willis said.

Given the long runway to find homes for displaced residents, Egli said he was “confident” the working group could find housing solutions in a “considerate but pragmatic manner.”

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“Let’s roll up our collective sleeves, get the job done. We owe it to the residents,” he said.

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