150 townhomes in Ottawa's Heron Gate to be demolished; tenants must leave

More than one hundred families in the Heron Gate area are losing their homes.

They found out yesterday that they have four months to vacate because their townhomes are being demolished.

The townhomes are owned by Timbercreek and run between Heron Road, Sandalwood Drive and Baycrest Drive. The townhouses are old and in drastic need of repair but for the residents living there, they are home. And in a tight rental market, finding another home will be a challenge.

Benjamin Ford and his wife have raised their 5 kids in a townhouse on Baycrest Drive. But they'll have to vacate their home of six years by the end of September.

“We are probably going to leave Ottawa,” Ford says, “there are not a lot of options left that are reasonable. This was one of last bastions for us in the city.”

That "bastion" is owned by Timbercreek which informed residents at a meeting last night that 150 townhomes in the Heron Gate area were being demolished. 105 of them are occupied by folks like Ford. 

‘The reality is that the buildings are too old,” Ford says, “Within ten years, I think they will be a hazard to residents.  I don’t have a problem with this.  I think the only issue I have is the narrative being spun and killing a whole community overnight.”

The townhomes are about 50 years old.  Timbercreek says it has a relocation plan in place to help the tenants find somewhere to live and says they are not being evicted but relocated.

“Obviously, they’ll have to move,” says John Loubser, Timbercreek’s Director of Operations, “That's a very tragic thing in some way for them; in some ways it's potentially a new beginning.”

The whole area, 44 acres, is owned by Timbercreek.  It is all part of a bigger renewal project involving the city of Ottawa and the residents of Heron Gate. Timbercreek bought this rental community and its 5 highrises 6 years ago. Two years ago, it tore down 80 townhomes and has started rebuilding those. Jean Cloutier is the councilor for the area.

“It's important residents are safe in their homes,” he says, “that they're well maintained and Timbercreek made a decision that the houses cannot be maintained in an economically viable way.”

Sherisse Alsabeh doesn’t believe the houses have been maintained properly.  Her townhome will remain for now but she worries about her neighbours across the street.

“The neighborhood needs to be transformed,” she says, “It needs lots of upkeep but how they're going about it is not the best way in my opinion.”

Timbercreek says at this point it has no further plans to demolish any other townhomes.  But says those plans may change down the road.