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Tenants fighting proposed redevelopment in Centretown

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As the City of Ottawa faces a housing shortage, there is controversy brewing in Centretown over a proposed redevelopment that many tenants say could leave them homeless.

"I have no idea where I would go there is nothing affordable or accessible to me in Centretown," said resident Julie Ivanoff.

Ivanoff has been living in her apartment at the corner of Bank and Lisgar streets for three years, but in October she received an eviction notice.

Property owner 211-231 Bank Street Holdings purchased the buildings on the block two years ago. The owner plans to build a new nine-storey building with 263 apartments and retail space on the bottom.

All of the tenants in the 27 apartments and the businesses on the block received eviction notices, but the project has yet to be approved by city council.

"In that building right now there are long term tenants if they are evicted they will never be able to afford an apartment at the same rate," said Somerset Ward Coun. Ariel Troster.

Albert Bourjeili is the owner of Hairmosa, a staple on the block for more than 20 years. He recently relocated to Wellington Street.

"We did not receive any notice they were selling," Bourjeili said. "To be honest, the block needs help. It's too old. I spent, you can say, all my youth in that corner over there for 23 years. I'd like to see it better and hopefully, without anyone getting hurt."

The company and its development manager, Smart Living Properties, says the proposed project will revitalize the area, demolishing the current buildings but keeping the historic façade.

In a statement, Smart Living Properties says, "A generous and comprehensive relocation assistance package was offered to all tenants. Whereas the required payment by law is three months rent, the relocation package offered by the developer included up to 12 months rent compensation plus $500 moving service credit."

The proposed redevelopment has support from the Centretown Community Association but, at the same time, it points to the need for more affordable housing.

"We need more housing in general and we need affordable housing," said president Mary Huang.

"With the working from home, the north part of Centertown has been pretty empty, which leads to deterioration."

While it may be solving one problem, tenants like Ivanoff say it's creating another.

"In order to get people housed, you need to make sure that other people lose their homes? That doesn't make sense," said Ivanoff.

Seventeen tenants are currently fighting to stay.

"This is a big challenge to tackle because we want intensification, we want more people, but we don't only want people who can afford to pay thousands of dollars in rent," said Troster.

"I really think this developer can make good with their community by offering low cost units to the 17 households that are that are still in the building." 

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