Herongate residents rally to save townhomes

Some residents of a Herongate community in southeast Ottawa took to the streets today in protest. Their townhomes, 150 of them owned by Timbercreek, are about to be torn down. Protesters marched along Heron Road, Baycrest and Sandalwood where their homes are situated.

The residents found out just last week that they would have to leave their homes by the end of September.

But they say that leaves them little time to pack up their families and look for a new place to live. 

As protesters gathered along Heron Road, Dalal Ayoob watched from the doorway of her home where she's lived for the last 10 years, the home she'll now have to leave.

“Oh my God, I am crying all the time,” Ayoob says.

Timbercreek announced last week that it was tearing down 150 townhomes in Heron Gate, saying they are old and in some cases, beyond repair.

Timbercreek townhomes in Heron Gate.

“My husband is handicapped and we are on ODSP,” says Ayoob, “so how are we going to manage this?”

It's a dilemma for about 100 families in this community, largely populated by immigrants and low-income earners.

Margeret Alluker is a tenant and a member of Acorn, the group organizing today’s rally.

“I've lived here for 5 years and many times I see new faces from the newcomers that come into this community,” she says, “They share the same language and the same culture and it will be hard for them to go around without being together.”

About a dozen residents, led by Acorn, a group helping low and middle-income families, marched to the offices of Timbercreek which is the company that owns the 44-acre rental complex at Herongate. 

The group came demanding two things:  a couple more months to find a place and an opportunity to move in to the new complex that Timbercreek is building, after it demolished 80 townhomes a couple years ago

“We are concerned this is hitting people who are low income,” says Mavis Finnamore, a member of Acorn and a former tenant, “and they are being pushed out of the neighbourhood.”

Timbercreek said last week that it was doing everything it could to help relocate residents.

“We're seeking to help people find other places to move and assist them in doing that,” said John Loubser, the Director of Operations with Timbercreek.

Protesters left today without answers but vowed to return to get them.

The protesters say what is really needed is to enforce inclusionary zoning, so that new developments include affordable housing.  Otherwise, they say, low-income families will be pushed right out of Ottawa.