Martin C. Barry
Over the objections of a group of people from Park Extension concerned about a lack of social housing, the Borough of Villeray/St-Michel/Parc Extension’s demolition committee gave its permission last week to tear down an aging former bakery on Querbes Ave. where a new residential condo project is scheduled to be built.
Future condo project
The property’s owner, Montoni Group, purchased the former Homemade Kosher Bakery building at the corner of Beaumont Ave. after the City of Montreal had previously expressed an interest in acquiring the building for future redevelopment into social housing.
After being inspected by borough officials, the current building was found to be deficient in several respects, including water infiltration, mould and relatively little value in terms of historical or architectural heritage.
Montoni plans to build a four-storey residential building, with the upper floors set back from the street. The developer has agreed to include a retail outlet where the former occupant could sell its bakery products to residents of Park Extension.
Amy Darwish of the Comité d’action de Parc Extension told the committee, chaired by Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros, that of the 104 residential units planned for the project, none will be social housing. “This despite the crying need for social housing in the area,” she said.
She also noted that the City of Montreal missed its target of creating 225 new social housing units in Park Extension. “To date, only 54 have been built,” she added. “Secondly, you say that this project will be responding to a diverse clientele. But we are wondering how this will be done.”
Impact of gentrification
She pointed out that information on rents expected to be charged for the units has not yet been revealed by the developer, “and we believe that it is highly probable that they will not be affordable or accessible to residents of the area who live on modest revenues,” she said.
“Finally, we must also draw attention to the fact that this request for demolition is taking place in the context of gentrification taking place in this neighbourhood,” said Darwish.
“More and more residents here are facing evictions while seeing their apartments taken back along with other abuses. We believe this project will probably increase pressure on tenants who more and more are having trouble finding a place to live. For all these reasons, we believe that this project does not correspond to the public interest.”
Social housing needed
André Trépanier, also with the CAPE, expressed similar views while opposing the demolition and the building project to replace it. “The people in the area are currently very badly housed,” he said. “They are tenants who are desperately in need of housing in good condition and at a reasonable cost.”
Noting that the architectural plans for the new project call for the creation of a partly enclosed exterior yard in the centre, Sasha Dyck said the lack of a clear definition between public and private access would lead to conflicts.
Tenants forced out
He said he also agreed with the other who spoke. “Like them, I agree that this project doesn’t answer at all to the needs which are real and desperate in the Park Extension neighbourhood,” said Dyck.
He pointed out that his household is among the many families in Park Extension who were forced over the past year out of their homes by drastically rising rents or landlords who forced them to leave.
“I and my neighbours have been ousted in the past year. Just in the past few months, I know of at least 10 families on my street who were made to leave. I was able to find another apartment. But the vast majority now find themselves in the suburbs. I know of a family that has had to go to Joliette in order to find a house that was big enough for them.”