Hampstead developers try to entice residents to leave old building, move into new units

In a letter sent to tenants, the developers offered a rate of $900 a month for a one-bedroom apartment or $1,200 a month for a two-bedroom in the new luxury development.

Tenants were offered more compensation for moving and opportunity to rent in the new building

The tenants of the two buildings, located on Côte-Saint-Luc Road, don't want to see them demolished to make way for a 10-storey luxury apartment block. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

Developers in Hampstead are offering a new deal to the tenants of two low-rent apartment buildings they want to demolish to make way for luxury rental units.

The residents of the twin apartment buildings on Côte Saint-Luc Road say it is one of the few places in Hampstead with affordable housing.

Developers Mitchell Moss and Mitchell Abrahams held a meeting Thursday night, offering tenants the option to move into the new building once it is completed.

In a letter sent to tenants, the developers offered them a rate of $900 a month for a one-bedroom apartment or $1,200 a month for a two-bedroom. 

The letter also said they will pay the moving costs for tenants to leave the old building and move into the new one, in addition to a payment equal to six months' rent.

"We believe that offering our tenants a realistic and affordable option to remaining part of our community in a modern, high-quality rental project … is fair and an expression of the seriousness with which we hope to move ahead," the letter reads.

Only 2 tenants showed up

But the tenants say it's not enough, pointing to a referendum on the development taking place on Sunday.

Marie Pontini was one of only two tenants who attended Thursday's meeting.

She said the developers didn't give people enough warning it was taking place because most people in the buildings work and some are single parents.

"If they really wanted to speak with the tenants, they would've made sure they could reach the tenants," she said.

The new deal didn't sweeten the pot for Pontini, who said that she and others aren't looking for compensation. 

She told CBC it's about the "precedent" and keeping affordable housing in the neighbourhood.

Accusations surround project

Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg wants the project to get the green light and previously vetoed council votes that would have scrapped the project altogether.

But many residents claim he's in a conflict of interest: Steinberg is related to one of the developers, Mitchell Moss.

Abrahams, Moss' partner in the development, confirmed that his partner is a "very distant cousin" of the mayor, but said that "there are probably a hundred different Steinberg related cousins in the town of Hampstead."

Steinberg recused himself from a council vote involving that same cousin in 2012, but he has not in the case of this newest development.

Mayor William Steinberg's relation to one of the developers has led residents to accuse him of having a conflict of interest. (CBC)

In 2012, Steinberg said it was a different situation. There were two competing bidders on Hampstead's old fire station.

The moment he found out Moss was involved, he said he notified the town's director general and recused himself from the vote. Moss is a fourth cousin who Steinberg said he never sees socially.

Moving forward, he said "it's in the interest of the town for me to do my job and be as involved as necessary."

There will be more tax revenue for the town, a decrease in property tax this year and Côte Saint-Luc Road will get an architectural facelift, he said.

The new project will also give young families an affordable option in town while contributing $5.2 million in infrastructure work without costing taxpayers a dime, he said.

"This is going to benefit the town tremendously," said Steinberg, vowing to sue anyone who publicly accuses him of corruption.

"For people to accuse me of underhanded dealings, of being in bed with these developers, is disgusting."

The referendum vote on Sunday will decide the future of the project.

Reporting by Antoni Nerestant


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