The long demise of Heron Gate

Timbercreek said every Heron Gate tenant has found a new place to live after they were issued eviction notices this past spring. For the few remaining families, the truth is not so simple.

Families were told to be out of their homes by Oct. 1

Former residents left behind furniture, rubbish, and even a toilet when they left the Heron Gate neighbourhood ahead of planned evictions. (Laura Osman/CBC)

The buildings have been worn down for years — the landlord says they're beyond repair — but as of Monday the community in Heron Gate really will be gone.

Some tenants lived in the area for 20 years. For some, it was the only home they've known in Canada.

The landlord, Timbercreek, said in a press release that every tenant has found a new place to live after 105 households received eviction notices this past spring.

For a few remaining families, the truth is not so simple. They plan to remain in their Heron Gate homes on Oct. 1, the day they're supposed to hand back the keys.

They say the neighbourhood they knew and loved has already disappeared.

Abdullahi Ali

Abdullahi Ali has found a place for his family of seven to move, but not until November. Timbercreek has decided to let them stay until they can go to their new home. (Laura Osman/CBC)

For a long time, the townhouse complex in Heron Gate was considered a vibrant, thriving community by the people who lived there.

Neighbours would set up tables outside and come and go like family. They would babysit each other's children and share meals.

Now, abandoned furniture sits empty on front lawns. Many residents left their belongings behind when they left; their new units too small to hold them.

Residents abandoned lots of furniture when they moved out of Heron Gate. It's a reminder of the lost community, where only a few residents remain. (Laura Osman/CBC)

It's a bittersweet reminder for Abdullahi​ Ali, whose family may be the only one left in the neighbourhood in a few weeks.

"We knew each other, we'd be like sister and brother. Everybody now is gone," he said. "The whole community is dispersing everywhere in the city."

Ali found a place for his family, but they can't move in until Nov. 5. Initially, Timbercreek told the family they must leave by the eviction deadline, but on Tuesday the landlord announced the family could stay until their new home is ready. 

​Sahra Al​i

Abdullahi​ and his family may not be totally alone. Down the street, Sahra Ali and her family of seven don't know where they're going to live.

Timbercreek has offered her a three-bedroom townhouse in another part of Heron Gate, but she doesn't think she'll take it.

"They showed me yesterday, but it's not good for me," she said.

Some of the debris left behind when residents vacated the neighbourhood. (Laura Osman/CBC)

Her son, Abdul, said they're worried about bedbugs and cockroaches, but don't know what other options they have. The family's applications for other units in their price range outside the community have been denied.

"Most likely we're going to end up in a shelter," he said. "We don't even know if they're going to accept a big family like us in a shelter. So we're going to have to end up splitting, maybe."

It's not clear if the family will have to leave or if Timbercreek will allow them to stay as well.

"It's just unbelievable," Abdul said. "It's going to be scary."

Efforts are still being made to prevent the demolition of the townhomes, though Timbercreek said it will happen before the end of the year. After that, the company plans to turn its attention to its redevelopment plans for the area, which are still under consultation.

Iyobosa Igbinedion

Those who have left have found rental units within five kilometres of the community, for similar rents, Timbercreek announced Wednesday.

It's impossible to know where all the tenants have gone, but most of the families CBC has been in contact with have moved farther away to smaller, more expensive units.

It took several weeks before Iyobosa Igbinedion was able to register her daughter, Pride, for school after leaving her home in Heron Gate. (Laura Osman/CBC)

And for many, the transition has not been easy. Iyobosa Igbinedion moved to Ottawa's east end with her daughters and had a tough time getting her family settled.

It took two and a half weeks to get her daughter, Pride, registered for school. In the meantime, she had to take unpaid time off work to be with her.

"As a mother, you cannot be happy with it, you cannot be happy with the situation."​