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‘Reno-viction’ rage: Tenants demand policies to protect low-income renters in Ottawa

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Ottawa City Hall was the site of a protestWednesday that urged the city to enact an anti-displacement policy to protect low-income tenants from eviction because of renovations in or demolitions of existing buildings. 

Members of ACORN Ottawa also urged the city to require developers and landlords to compensate tenants when they are asked to move because of changes to the buildings in which they live. This would include finding temporary housing for displaced tenants or paying the difference between what tenants can afford and what’s available on the market. Tenants are also calling for rent stabilization.

Ottawa has seen several high profile instances of tenants being displaced from once-affordable housing in recent years including from Heron Gate, Sandy Hill and now Manor Village in the city’s west end.

Renovations or demolitions can allow landlords to raise rents beyond the limit of 1.2 per cent set by the province, often pricing the homes beyond the ability of low-income tenants to pay.

As an example, protestors pointed to concerns that Smart Living Properties, which recently bought an estate in Manor Village, is converting two-to-four bedroom townhomes into student housing complexes which rent for $3,200 for a four to six-bedroom unit, well above what many residents say they could afford.

Smart Living Properties responded to the concerns in an email to Capital Current.

“We are renovating the Manor Village community right now. No one has been asked to leave, and we have offered an incentive of six months’ rent plus moving expenses. We’ll also help tenants find a new home, if they need it.”

The support will last until September, potentially leaving many tenants struggling to find affordable housing. 

The expansion of the O-Train is also having an impact on “reno-victions” or “demo-evictions,” protesters say.

In November, the city purchased to demolish about 120 homes in Manor Village and Cheryl Gardens neighbourhoods, to allow the light rail line to extend to Barrhaven, potentially displacing hundreds of residents. This was after Ottawa became the first city in Canada to declare a housing and homelessness emergency. 

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, both spoke to the protesters. The two councillors represent wards where tenants have been affected by such reno- and demo-victions.

Leiper said, “the LRT is coming through, and increasingly, in the absence of policies that ensures that everyone can afford to live there. We’re putting huge investments in making places like Kitchissippi and Centretown and other great neighbourhoods better … but that investment is wasted if only the most affluent in our city can afford to live there.”

“We need a strong policy, an anti-displacement policy,” McKenney told Capital Current, “that ensures that when a developer comes to us and asks for permission to redevelop … part of the conditions put on them is that the tenants that are presently there are not displaced.” 

Amanda Mcmahon says she’ll continue fighting to keep her home in Manor Village. 

Maintaining community

“We don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. With four children, two dogs and her disabled mother living with her, Mcmahon is struggling to find a new home to house her family. Her current rent stands at $1,414 with utilities included and a backyard. 

“Even a two-bedroom apartment right now is more than that,” she added. 

For tenants like Mcmahon, it isn’t just about finding a new home, it’s also about maintaining the community that has welcomed her and her family. 

Her son has anxiety and a speech impediment and Mcmahon credits her neighbours for taking care of him and for reserving judgment on his disabilities. Relocating would not just be about finding an affordable place to live, but also finding a similar welcoming community, she said.

“If you have an entire community that you displace and you are making profit from that, it is incumbent upon us as a city to ensure that part of that profit goes to ensuring that people are not displaced,” McKenney said.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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