By Yasmine Ghania

Mayoral candidate Clive Doucet’s platform advocates ditching a “developer-first model of growing Ottawa” in favour of a “community-first model.”

Since the platform prominently and specifically calls out the Herongate evictions that The Leveller has extensively reported on, we were intrigued to sit down with Doucet and discuss how he would do things differently.

Doucet spoke to your intrepid Leveller correspondent while sitting at a table in Carleton University, talking to students passing by. Doucet noted that he didn’t believe anyone from Jim Watson’s staff team made a trip down to Herongate. Glancing down for a quick moment he said, “They needed political will and that political will did not exist.”

Clive Doucet outside the Timbercreek rental office in Herongate. Credit- Adam Gibbard
I’m betting Mr. Watson spent more money on signs than I spent on my campaign.

Other municipalities have found the will, so it’s not impossible. The Herongate evictions would have been impossible in Toronto. A chapter of the Toronto municipal code, the Residential Rental Property Demolition and Conversion Control, protects rental houses from being demolished to make way for condos. Anyone wanting to demolish or convert rental units needs approval and a permit from the city, and the city can make approval contingent on the replacement of the original units.

Meanwhile in Ottawa this May, 105 Herongate families received eviction notices, giving them until Sept. 30 to vacate their homes – even though demolition permits weren’t issued yet. The community is overwhelmingly low-income, racialized, and made up of immigrants, some who have lived there for 20 years. Corporate landlords have neglected the buildings for decades, allowing them to justify destroying them today.

Speaking at a rally against the Herongate evictions on Oct. 4, Doucet said ”We should be building a 1,000 units a year…we’re getting 87…and we’re not inspecting our houses the way we should. There’s no political will to be a city for everyone.”

At the same really, New Democrat MPP Joel Harden compared Herongate’s situation to that of Africville, an African-Canadian village that existed in the 1960s, in the north of Halifax.

Africville’s land was expropriated by the city for industrial development, demovicting residents, and justifying it all by saying its infrastructure did not meet minimum sanitation standards – after decades of systemic neglect.

The Ottawa Citizen reported Harden as saying, “those people in Africville had their possessions taken away in dump trucks. And I just heard that on Saturday, people (in Herongate) had their possessions forcibly removed in dump trucks. It’s happened again.”

Back at Carleton, Doucet told The Leveller action on Herongate needed to be taken by politicians 10 years ago. Politicians needed to push developers to conduct adequate home inspections going back a decade ago, he said.

Doucet then spoke about the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan passed by Jim Watson. This plan was approved in 2014 and has a $16 million budget for an initiative to help reduce homelessness and fix housing issues. But Doucet doesn’t think Watson spent enough on this plan in order to solve the problem of inadequate housing.

If Doucet was mayor, he said the Herongate eviction would never have happened, because he would have made sure that long term housing inspections and inclusionary zoning were included in the city’s Housing and Homelessness plan.

The Herongate complex logged the highest number of building complaints in the city. For example, in 2009, there were 150 complaints. Only a portion of these issues were solved, not by the landlord, but by the city.

If long term housing inspections were implemented, landlords would be required to take complaints more seriously.

Inclusionary zoning is an idea that was put into law in 2016 by the Liberal government. Essentially, it means that cities have the power to tell developers that if they’re going to build a new residence, a certain number of units have to be priced so that people with lower incomes can afford them as well.

If this was implemented on a wide scale, Herongate tenants would have been able to find affordable housing elsewhere. In addition, it would force Timbercreek to build inclusive housing into their new development.

Doucet is a people-first candidate and said that’s something that Jim Watson lacks. “I’m betting Mr. Watson spent more money on signs than I spent on my campaign. I don’t think Ottawa can afford him.”

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