Mayor meets with Heron Gate tenants facing eviction

Tenants of the Heron Gate community who are pleading for help to save their neighbourhood from demolition met with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Thursday, but say they didn't get much satisfaction from the meeting.

Residents seeking help to save low-income community from demolition

Heron Gate resident Tracey Heal said despite meeting with Mayor Jim Watson, she's still confused about what steps he is willing to take to help those facing eviction. 0:35

Tenants of the Heron Gate community who are pleading for help to save their neighbourhood from demolition met with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Thursday, but say they didn't get much satisfaction from the meeting. 

The owner of the development, Timbercreek, announced plans to evict hundreds of people who live in the area and tear down 105 low-rent townhomes. The company says many of the units are past repair and can't be saved.

The news came as a blow to the community which is made up largely of new immigrants and low-income families, many of which live four to seven people to a home.

A handful of tenants fighting the evictions were invited to city hall to speak to the mayor, their local councillor Jean Cloutier and senior city housing staff to discuss their concerns.

"I thought we would get a little further ahead," Tracey Heal said after the meeting.

Heal has lived in Heron Gate for four years. She hasn't received an eviction notice but worries her part of the development could be demolished next.

"He's not really giving us a lot of information in terms of what his role in it is."
A handful of tenants from Heron Gate met with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to ask him to help them save their community from eviction and demolition. (CBC)

The mayor explained that Heron Gate is a private development and the city only has so much control, she said. She feels the city does have some responsibility for the evictions because the homes have been falling into disrepair for such a long time under the watch of city property standards staff.

The community is in despair in the meantime, she said, and many of the tenants don't speak English and don't have a voice.

She said Mayor Watson should be that voice.

Heron Gate tenant Tracy Heal says she hoped the meeting with the mayor and other city staff would lead to more progress. (CBC)

'If we had the power to stop this, we would'

Watson was not available to answer media questions immediately after the meeting, but Cloutier said it was productive. He said he wishes the city could do more.

His office has been working to find accommodations for as many of the tenants as possible, and a few have secured a new place to live.

But he said the city can't save the community.

"If we had the power to stop this, we would," Cloutier said. "It is a provincial process."

He said the city is trying to use its influence with Timbercreek, but all it can really do is try to connect people with new homes.