Martin C. Barry
Social housing – specifically the lack of it in many areas of Villeray/St-Michel/Parc Extension – dominated a good deal of the borough council’s November public meeting last Tuesday evening at VSP headquarters on Ogilvy Ave. in Park Extension.
Social housing crisis
Not only did social housing activists from Park Extension stage a small demonstration outside to raise awareness of the shortage’s local impact.
Lobbyists for social housing from other part of Villeray and Saint-Michel also made their voices heard about a problem the Plante administration claims to have under control in the form of thousands of planned social housing units – even though most have yet to be completed.
Demolition permit granted
On the agenda later in the evening, following a very long public question period, was the borough council’s approval for a property developer’s demolition permit.
Groupe Montoni will be tearing down the former kosher bakery at the corner of Beaumont and Querbes avenues in order to replace it with a residential condo project.
The site had originally been targeted by the borough and the city as the location for a new social housing project. However, the developer beat them to the punch by offering a higher bid to the seller.
Impact of gentrification
The coup isn’t sitting well with Park Extension’s social housing activists who see it not only as a setback for local social housing, but also as a move that brings in even more gentrification – a trend that (as predicted) is driving an increasing number of longtime Park Ex residents out of their own neighbourhood.
“The demolition will be taking place to allow Groupe Montoni to build housing that will not be affordable or accessible for the majority of Parc-Extension tenants,” the Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension said in a statement handed out before the meeting. “If completed, this project will no doubt contribute to the gentrification of the neighbourhood.”
Projects coming, says Deros
Despite this, Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros said in an interview before the meeting that she and other municipal officials continue searching for future sites for social housing projects.
“The good news is that we have not stopped looking for areas to develop social housing,” she told Nouvelles Parc Extension News, noting that the borough and city concluded a deal two months ago to purchase the former Bétonel location on de l’Épée Ave. near Liège St.
Some future projects
“There’s about 30 apartments that will be constructed there, right across the street from a park and half a block away from a bus terminal,” she said.
According to Deros, a second location for social housing is also currently being scouted by the city and borough officials, although she couldn’t provide details earlier this week because the deal was in the final stages of negotiation.
While Deros acknowledged that Park Extension “is very hot” from the standpoint of development and real-estate dealings, she continued, “We at the borough level and also with the housing committee of the City of Montreal are actively working to develop potential areas for social housing.”
Borough mayor’s position
In a statement Borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli read out at the beginning of the meeting, she addressed the lack of social housing. “You already know my position: to revitalize. Yes, we must revitalize, but without gentrifying, or least while attenuating the effects with help from the tools available to us.
“Can I single-handedly block such projects or take steps to move forward this vision?” she added. “No. This evening I will attentively listen to the arguments of those opposing the project to make an enlightened decision on this dossier.
Change looming, she says
“But one thing is certain,” she continued. “We are putting into place mechanisms to prevent such scenarios from happening again. It is my wish at this point mid-mandate that we put into place measures for the greatest inclusion of social housing.”