Ottawa

Rising Vanier house prices spark gentrification fears

Housing prices in the Ottawa neighbourhood have shot up over the past 12 months, sparking optimism about the community's economic future but also fears of looming gentrification.

Average selling price of a home has risen 11% in last 12 months

A house for sale on Wayling Avenue in Ottawa's Vanier neighbourhood. Prices have risen sharply in recent months, raising the spectre of gentrification pushing out longtime residents of the community. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Thinking about buying a home in Vanier? You are not alone.

Increased demand has caused housing prices in the east-of-downtown neighbourhood — traditionally considered one of Ottawa's most marginalized — to shoot up over the last 12 months. 

The changes have bolstered optimism about the community's economic future but also fears of looming gentrification.

"There's no slowing down. There really isn't," said John Gomes, a real estate agent who lives in the community.

According to data from the Ottawa Real Estate Board provided by Gomes, the average selling price of a home in Vanier currently sits at roughly $467,000 — an 11.4 per cent increase over the same time in 2018, but still about $20,000 less than the citywide average.

Gomes said prices grow higher the closer one gets to Beechwood Avenue, with its flourishing restaurant scene and locally-run shops.

Home sales are booming in Vanier, though some are cautioning against gentrification. Coun. Mathieu Fleury and Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier BIA, spoke to CBC News. 1:27

But the demand extends to other pockets of the neighbourhood.

A 900 square-foot bungalow Gomes sold on Shakespeare Street, for instance, was purchased for north of $500,000, roughly $66,000 above its listing price.

"Every good house that comes up that's appropriately priced ... there's pretty much multiple offers and bidding wars on most of them," he said.

"There's a big demand for good housing in the neighbourhood. There's not a lot of it."

'The challenge is affordability'

Both Gomes and Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury say many new homeowners are young professionals looking for an affordable house in which they can start families.

While that demographic is great for the "stability of the neighbourhood," Fleury said the core issue remains ensuring Vanier stays affordable for longtime residents, too — including those who can't afford to own property.

"The challenge is affordability overall, and that's a citywide issue," said Fleury.

"We struggle as a city to maintain rental stock, to maintain affordability, generally speaking, in our policy. And we have to do a better job of that."

Montreal Road facelift

The rising housing prices are being met with "an air of excitement and an air of caution," said Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier BIA.

"We are excited that after many, many years of Vanier falling behind as a community, it is growing — and the people that have invested in the community are finally seeing returns on their investments," Carrier said.

"What we don't want to see is gentrification. We don't want to see this pushing out of the people that have lived here their whole lives."

That is a legitimate concern, given that Montreal Road — the community's busy commercial thoroughfare — will be thoroughly overhauled in the coming years with new bike lanes, sidewalks, trees and other streetscape features.

Nathalie Carrier, the Vanier BIA's executive director, says her agency has been trying to learn from other Ottawa neighbourhoods that have gone through gentrification, such as Hintonburg. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

It's also increasingly home to colourful murals, including one unveiled Wednesday to kick off the neighbourhood's 50th anniversary celebrations.

The ideal situation, Carrier said, is that Vanier's increasing desirability will attract developers willing to keep the community's best interests at heart, in part by creating more rental stock.

"There's few people who own lots of property in Vanier," said Carrier. "A lot of [individual] owners in Vanier contribute to our community, and we're very lucky to have that."

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