I have received some questions from residents regarding a recent decision by City Council to proceed with a Stage 3 Light Rail Transit alignment to the south end of our City that would impact 120 privately-operated rental homes in Manor Village.
It is important to note that any such impacts on these homes are years away (Stage 2 is not yet complete, and there is not even funding for Stage 3 at this point) so, as mentioned at Council, it is important that steps be taken now to ensure that there are appropriate safety nets in place for anyone, whether Manor Village, or any other resident, who may be impacted by the system expansion.
In the case of Manor Village, several Councillors, including the local ward Councillor, put forth different motions for how this issue could be addressed, as well as raised concerns. As a result of yesterday’s Council meeting, a departmental working group was established, dedicated to looking for long-term solutions for any impacted residents. Councillors even went so far as to pass a motion directing staff to explore building replacement affordable housing opportunities at 40 Beechcliffe St., a nearby plot of city-owned land adjacent to the proposed LRT route.
Additionally, I would like to share some of the points City staff, as well as the local Councillor, Keith Egli, raised during the Council meeting that provide more specific background and nuance about the future of Manor Village, as well as may explain why a strong majority of Council voted in favour of moving ahead with the creation of the working group and exploring replacement lands for the impacted Manor Village residents.
If the City were to change the route, the property would remain with the owner, who has stated that they plan on redeveloping the lands. Councillor Egli has since brought in an interim control by-law preventing this, but that will expire at the end of the current study period. When that control is removed, either the City would (or if denied, the province would over-rule) and rezone the property for a greater density and taller buildings, as that is the requirement for new builds along our transit systems. City council will then have no control or say over the demolition that would follow, as Manor Village is privately owned by a corporation.
The City is in the process of enacting Inclusionary Zoning as part of the new Official Plan, which would see affordable housing being built alongside all legs of the LRT system and near all bus rapid transit stations. However, with specific regard to Manor Village, there is no legal expectation or requirement for the private landowner to provide housing at the same rents being paid now, nor replace the units with the same larger family-oriented design.
Ultimately, our City is in the midst of a housing crisis and all efforts must be made to focus on improving the situation, not adding to it. As we expand our transit system, it is important that this newly developed working group focus on providing stable, affordable, long-term housing for the current tenants, as well as creating additional affordable housing in this new adjacent community.