Residents look to snap up land before developer does

A community group from Ottawa's Heatherington neighbourhood is exploring the possibility of buying a vacant lot from the city with the aim of keeping it out of the hands of developers.

Heatherington group hopes to set up community land trust to purchase former public works yard

The 3.2-hectare lot at 1770 Heatherington Road was used as a public works ward until 2012. A neighbourhood group wants to take over ownership of the property. (Google)

A community group from Ottawa's Heatherington neighbourhood is exploring the possibility of buying a vacant lot from the city with the aim of keeping it out of the hands of developers.

The 3.2-hectare lot at 1770 Heatherington Road near Walkley Road was a public works yard until 2012.

Josh Hawley, who grew up in the area and is one of the people behind the effort to create what's known as a community land trust, said the goal is to keep the property off the market and away from developers who don't necessarily have the community's best interest in mind.

"Heatherington is a very, very neglected neighbourhood," Hawley told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"Community land trusts prevent speculative and market forces from driving people out, and making rent and making housing unafforable."
Josh Hawley grew up in the Heatherington neighbourhood. He wants the community to take ownership of the vacant lot near Walkley Road. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

Affordable housing

Ideally the community land trust would reserve the lot for affordable housing, Hawley said.

The trust would be run by a board made up of residents from both the immediate and wider communities as well as non-profit groups, Hawley said.

The community group will be conducting a walking tour of the site Monday, followed by a panel discussion to explore whether a land trust is possible.

The first step would be to incorporate as a non-profit group in order to accept donations and grants to buy the land, Hawley said.

"It's a huge task that we face."

City initiative

The's city's own plans for the site aren't immediately clear, Hawley said: the property is part of a city council initiative called Building Better Revitalized Neighbourhoods, and was the focus of recent public consultations.

Residents told the city they wanted to see the property serve a number of purposes including affordable housing, recreation and a medical clinic.

"They have a plan to develop it, they've already come up with concept drawings, although they've assured us that the soil is not going to be broken for years," Hawley said.

He said community ownership of the land will ensure it's preserved for the purposes residents want.