Parc-Extension residents fight development project, call for social housing instead
Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension borough council delayed vote to demolish Beaumont Ave. buildings
Residents of Parc-Extension are trying to stop a development project they say is contributing to the gentrification of their neighbourhood.
Dozens of protesters showed up at the Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension borough council meeting Tuesday night, appealing to the borough to stop the demolition of two industrial buildings at the corner of Beaumont and Stuart avenues.
The buildings would be replaced by a four-storey building with commercial space and 39 student apartments.
That proposed development is the latest which activists believe is linked to the new Université de Montréal campus in Outremont, across the train tracks from Parc-Ex, which is set to open later this year.
Parc-Ex resident Sasha Dyck, who lives in the area and helped organize Tuesday's protest, says he saw firsthand what happened to Mile End when Ubisoft moved in. He believes the same thing is happening to Parc-Ex.
"If any housing is going to be built, it should be housing for the families who currently are living in some very precarious housing situations," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
The borough's urban planning committee recommended the buildings be demolished last year.
The borough council was to vote on the demolition Tuesday, but the vote was postponed after someone who owns a business in one of the buildings told the council that he had not been properly informed of the demolition.
The new date for the vote has not been set. Borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli said she would vote against the demolition after seeing the public response.
Students creating pressure on housing
Dyck said the buildings on Beaumont were recently renovated and are in good shape.
He said people are being chased out of their homes — he is looking for a new apartment himself and says landlords have been telling him that rents are up because of the expected influx of students in the neighbourhood.
The Comité d'Action de Parc Extension (CAPE), a community group, wants the land to be used for clean, affordable housing instead, and says the developer's current plans do not meet the needs of residents of the borough.
But Coun. Mary Deros said the city's housing office was consulted about building social housing there and concluded it's not a viable site because social housing units must be two- or three-bedroom apartments, and that lot is only big enough for small apartments.
The other problem with creating social housing on that land is zoning — because Beaumont is an artery, the first floor of the building has to be commercial, and the city housing department doesn't manage commercial space.
She said she feels for residents of Parc-Ex who are being forced out, but the project is allowed under current zoning rules.
"The city has certain powers that it can implement, and there are certain things we can't do," she said.
The new units will help prevent students from flocking to the neighbourhood, taking over other apartments and ousting longtime tenants, she said.
Deros said the borough has created 1,275 social housing units since 2002 — more than other boroughs.
"We are doing our part, we would like to do more," she said, adding that there are other sites being considered for social housing.
- An earlier version of this story said that the borough postponed a vote on the demolition because a resident of one of the buildings said he had not been properly informed of the plan. In fact, there are no housing units in the industrial building, and the complaint came from someone who owns a business in the building.Feb 07, 2019 3:46 PM ET
With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak