Herongate is, by far, Ottawa’s most diverse neighbourhood. It is a beautiful neighbourhood made up of people from a multitude of backgrounds. Children play in the streets and in the park while family members of all ages sit outside and share stories over tea. Some of us have built impressive front-yard and backyard gardens, while others have grown up and raised families here. Many of us have lived here for decades and this is where we call home. This is where our families and friends are. This is where we’ve built our lives.
We are also one of Ottawa’s poorest neighbourhoods and we are now being told, for the second time in two years, that our community will be destroyed and we have no say in the matter. Timbercreek and the City of Ottawa want to “revitalize” Herongate and they want all the low-income people out.
Timbercreek and the city even tried to consult with us about the future of our neighbourhood when they knew they would be destroying our homes. They called this the “visioning process.” Now we won’t be here to enjoy the very community we’ve built. They are evicting us from own neighbourhood.
What many people don’t know is that the entire neighbourhood of Herongate is essentially owned by one company – Timbercreek. In fact, this is the largest group of residential rentals owned by one landlord in Canada. Over 4,000 people live in Timbercreek’s Herongate, the population of a small town.
Finally, there is one more fact that speaks volumes: Herongate has the highest level of housing need in the city.
The corporate landlords have turned our neighbourhood into a national disaster. How did the Herongate houses fall into complete disrepair and become some of the worst rentals in the country? How did one landlord come to own an entire neighbourhood, the most diverse neighbourhood at that? Why is the city letting this company destroy a neighbourhood that should be celebrated and supported? As Herongate disappears, the city suffers.
In a matter of ten years, the Herongate homes went from being in decent condition to being in appalling condition. From ceilings falling apart, to roofs coming close to falling off, to windows being broken during the harsh winter we just had, the homes have been progressively falling apart with next to no urgency to be fixed from Timbercreek. Simply put, Timbercreek has blatantly abused its tenants. Not only has the landlord been negligent to the physical conditions of our homes, Timbercreek has turned a blind eye to many of these conditions. Many work orders have been ignored for years while others have never been completed.
Enough is enough. The residents of Herongate will not stand for this abuse from the landlord and from the city any longer. We are now getting organized and we will save our neighbourhood from being torn apart.
Timbercreek has been telling everybody they are offering a “relocation plan” to tenants now facing eviction. This is a ruse. Many of us who lost our homes in the first phase of the destruction in the middle of winter in February, 2016 were “relocated” to other townhouses in Timbercreek. Now, we are facing eviction all over again because Timbercreek is now ready to demolish the next parcel of townhouses. This will happen again and again until all our homes are gone and so are we.
While the predicament we face as a community is frankly heartbreaking, our response is exemplary of how tight-knit our community is. We have come together to start a campaign, Herongate Tenant Coalition. We are led by the tenants of Herongate and we are organizing to keep the families in Herongate. This is our neighbourhood and we are staying.