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Controversial housing demolition in Hampstead to go to referendum

Click to play video: 'Hampstead to hold referendum on housing project' Hampstead to hold referendum on housing project
WATCH: The future of a block of affordable housing units in Hampstead will be decided by a referendum. As Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports, residents say they are relieved but the developers promise to keep on fighting – Oct 3, 2019

The Town of Hampstead in Montreal is planning to hold a referendum to decide the fate of two affordable apartment buildings on Côte Saint Luc Road.

About 250 people signed a public register on Wednesday, voting in favour of holding a referendum to decide the issue — 212 votes were needed to push for action.

READ MORE: Hampstead to hold referendum on housing demolition project

“In my view, it [the signatures] was the hardest thing to get and the most important thing to get,” said Patrick Demers, a resident in one of the buildings.
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The fate of the affordable apartments has divided the Hampstead community. Mayor William Steinberg says he is strongly in favour of the development project as it will revitalize what he calls a rundown area.

Click to play video: 'Hampstead tenants mount legal challenge following ‘illegal’ vote in favour of demolition' Hampstead tenants mount legal challenge following ‘illegal’ vote in favour of demolition
Hampstead tenants mount legal challenge following ‘illegal’ vote in favour of demolition – Aug 8, 2019

The developers, Mitchell Abrahams and Mitchell Moss, have promised to help relocate residents to other affordable units in the area.

“To relocate all these people, it does not seem to be very easy to me,” Demers said.

For residents in the building, the news of a referendum gives them some hope.

Clarita Llobrera’s 86-year-old husband has suffered from heart problems recently. She believes it’s partly due to stress over the future of their home.

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READ MORE: Tensions boil as residents continue fight against Hampstead demolition project

“That is the scary part of my situation,” Llobrera said. “We don’t know where to go.”

The elderly couple has lived in their tiny, three-room basement unit for 25 years. They survive off a small government pension and say their apartment is all they can afford.

“[I’m a] little bit, but not happy, happy yet. [I’m] still worried,” she said.
Click to play video: 'Hampstead mayor on the defensive over demolition project' Hampstead mayor on the defensive over demolition project
Hampstead mayor on the defensive over demolition project – Jul 17, 2019

Hampstead resident and activist Leah Lasry has been largely credited for getting enough signatures on the register.

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With only two hours left to vote, just 100 people had signed the register, so a tenant called her for help.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a lot of tax revenue’: Hampstead mayor reiterates support for housing demolition project

“I said, ‘the fate of these people are in your hands, if they are uprooted where will they go?'” Lasry said.

“They [some residents] were saying, ‘we don’t want to live next to poor people.’ They were saying, ‘this is an affluent neighbourhood, we want affluence.’ And I said, ‘I want you to repeat that in front of God one day.'”
Click to play video: 'Hampstead tenants in a low-income housing worry plans to demolish building will leave them homeless' Hampstead tenants in a low-income housing worry plans to demolish building will leave them homeless
Hampstead tenants in a low-income housing worry plans to demolish building will leave them homeless – Jun 26, 2019

The buildings’ tenants note they now have a fight on their hands, hoping that the town abandons the project completely — but the developers say they don’t plan to give up.

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“About 10 per cent of the population voted against it,” said the developers spokesperson, Jonathan Goldbloom.

“We feel that 90 per cent of the population, a good percentage of that, supports us and believes it will be good for Hampstead and we will go through the democratic process.”

READ MORE: Hampstead mayor vetoes decision to not demolish affordable housing complex

Town council is expected to hold a meeting next Monday where councillors will decide when to hold the referendum.

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