Martin C. Barry
During the May 7 public meeting of the Villeray/St-Michel/Parc Extension borough council, Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli read out a statement explaining her views on a number of current issues in the borough, including a pledge to introduce a wide-ranging action plan to deal with a community housing shortage, followed by a suggestion that she hopes to open CCU meetings to full public scrutiny.
Fumagalli speaks out
Fumagalli said that, like many other residents of Park Extension, she had recently seen publicity by the developer of 925-935 Beaumont Ave., who, she said, plans to build 39 “luxury” condos after stating when he received a building permit that he planned to create housing for students.
“This disgusts me as much as you,” she continued. “It should be remembered that I opposed myself to the demolition of those buildings because I wanted to see the construction of social and community housing. That would have drawn us nearer to our goal of 225 social housing units in the sector of the PDUES.”
Time for action, says Fumagalli
Noting that the centre city’s “20 20 20” policy for including social housing in new developments won’t be adopted before June, Fumagalli said it won’t come into effect before 2021. As a result, she invited interested parties to work on memorandi on the topic in order to table them during a public consultation by the OCPM taking place this fall.
She said “it is well past the time” that means were taken to prevent things like evictions, steep rent hikes and condo conversions from being forced on people from the borough and Park Extension, which is currently engulfed in a wave of accelerated gentrification.
“We need as quickly as possible measures to be put into place that will create social and community housing. In this sense, I pledge to present between now and the fall an action plan with concrete measures – an action plan that is the product of all the exchanges that I have had in the past year-and-a-half with the organizations, players, and citizens of our neighbourhoods.”
Rental register sought
Fumagalli announced two measures on which she has been working lately. The first (which she said was partly the result of a social forum she took part in recently in Villeray) would see a pilot project conducted to create a register for rents “that would allow us to avoid the abusive increases at the expense of tenants,” she said.
But she suggested that it might be necessary to go further than voluntary registers. “We know that normally this information must be inscribed on the lease. But most of the time it is not. That is why we need a register.”
At the same time, Fumagalli said she will soon be tabling a new by-law to control the proliferation of Airbnb, the global online real estate rental marketplace “which is threatening our rental base.
Make CCU public
“These two measures are two initial actions that I am announcing this evening,” Fumagalli added. “It goes without saying that the action plan will be more complete. But, as you know, it is now when we must define what our borough and neighbourhoods will look like. It is past the time to take action. And I am inviting the elected officials here to work with me on these issues because we are all aware of these problems.”
In addition to these suggestions, Fumagalli said she was also leaning towards the idea of opening up sessions of the Consultative Committee for Urbanism (CCU) to public scrutiny. (Currently the CCU meets privately with individuals and company owners presenting construction and architecture plans for CCU approval. This is also the case in most other municipalities and communities.)
Time to ‘democratize’
“We could modify our by-laws on the Consultative Committee for Urbanism so that sessions aren’t held behind closed doors. This is often where important decisions are taken. I think that maybe it is time to democratize this committee.”
Also during the meeting, Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros announced that the annual distribution of spring flowers to Park Extension residents will be taking place outside the St. Roch pool on Saturay May 18 beginning at 9 am. (Registration for this was suppposed to have been completed by May 10).
During question period, Constantinos Petsinis of Outremont Ave. near Jarry St. complained about reckless drivers along the street lately. Sasha Dyck inquired again, as he did during last month’s meeting, about the status of a building under renovation at the corner of Outremont and Ball avenues. A borough official confirmed the owner’s renovation permit is in order.