Hazelview Properties (formerly Timbercreek Asset Management) is a multi-billion-dollar Toronto-based global asset manager that specializes in real estate. Hazelview’s largest project has been the purchase and demolition of the Herongate community in Ottawa. The mass eviction of over 500 Herongate tenants from their homes is known as the “largest urban eviction campaign” in Canada. Hazelview considers Herongate a “trophy market” because they are able to substantially increase profits through massive displacement, rezoning and demolition and changes to leases that transfer costs like property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance on to tenants.
“In these trophy markets, Timbercreek’s focus has always been on finding gems that, for whatever reason, are under-loved and underpriced, rather than just invest in fully occupied properties and sit on them. The more upside potential the better, whether that is achieved through retrofits and upgrades to the property, improvements to the lease structure or having the property rezoned for a more lucrative use.”
Hazelview has massive plans for Herongate, Ottawa.
“This will be the largest project we’ve done,” said Paul Popovici, the company’s vice-president of real estate investment management.
Hazelview has already evicted hundreds of our neighbours when they demolished 230 three & four-bedroom townhouses in Herongate: 80 homes in 2016 and another 150 in 2019. But they still plan on demolishing another 559 townhouses and low-rise apartments. We don’t know their exact timeline, but we can expect the next round of evictions at any time. That’s why we need to get organized now so we can be prepared for when the next crisis hits.
The only way to stop Hazelview’s plans is for tenants to organize together, present demands as a group and refuse to move. Hazelview cannot demolish homes that are occupied and they will have a hard time evicting hundreds of tenants. Reach out to Herongate Tenant Coalition for help organizing.
There is a myth from Hazelview and its accomplices that all tenants will benefit from future demolition, that tenants will be able to transfer their leases to brand new units at the same price they were paying before. But we know that the diagrams of their redevelopment plans only show a few small two–three storey buildings. This is clearly not sufficient to house the thousands of people Hazelview plans on displacing. We also know their three new buildings next to Herongate Mall, called Vista Local, are luxury apartments renting at $1370/month for a bachelor and $2390/month for a two-bedroom. We can’t trust Hazelview or the politicians and agencies that support them. The only way to ensure we defend our homes and our communities is to come together, build power and refuse their plans. We know Hazelview’s business model relies on rent increases and displacing tenants. Kicking us and our neighbours out makes them money.
Hazelview’s Six-Phase Plan to Destroy Herongate
The expansion of Hazelview’s portfolio means the spread of this strategy to neighbourhoods across the country. This means widespread evictions of long-term tenants. The founder of Hazelview, Ugo Bizzarri has advice for institutions that want to participate in the rental boom, “the opportunity is finding the local market that is getting gentrified and making an investment to create “CORE”. Our goal is to find opportunities to create value, not to buy CORE.” Core buildings have wealthy tenants who stay long-term. Value-add investments, which Ugo Bizzarri recommends instead involves buying neglected buildings with low-income tenants. The added value comes from the massively increased rents that the landlord can get after evicting or pushing out tenants and renovating units. A process Timbercreek Financial executive Blair Tamblyn refers to as putting buildings through a car wash.
“On the front end, you put in a multi-res asset that, in our view, has not been operated to its fullest potential, and about two and a half years later, it comes out the other end looking squeaky clean and ready for an institutional buyer to acquire it,” he says. “The first few buildings are starting to come out of the clean end of the car wash.”
Hazelview’s Luxury Rentals, Vista Local
There hasn’t been much movement on the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) case between dozens of demovicted tenants and the City of Ottawa and Timbercreek since the application was first filed in early April 2019 (the last family left the parcel of 150 townhouses in early October 2018, and all the houses were bulldozed in Jan/Feb 2019).
Since the HRTO application was filed, Timbercreek has changed their operating name to Hazelview. This is an indication that the executives in charge want to distance themselves from the crisis of their own making.
The housing crisis is exacerbated by the judicial crisis affecting courts and tribunals across the province. Since Ford became Premier, the number of adjudicators at the HRTO has been halved, and those who have been appointed have ties to the Conservative party. Read more about this in The Globe and Mail.
On an encouraging note, this case is likely the largest housing rights case in the country’s history and it came together entirely through independent organizing by neighbourhood tenants who took bold and decisive action against both a $10-billion corporation and Ottawa’s heavy duty “old guard” landlord–developer–political class. We want to thank all of the excellent work of the legal team, consisting of lawyers Daniel Tucker-Simmons, Yavar Hameed and Nicholas Valela, with support from Professor David Wiseman’s University of Ottawa Access to Justice program.