Hampstead residents vote to reject contentious housing project

The Town of Hampstead held a referendum, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, to determine the fate of two affordable apartment buildings. (Global News)

After months of debate, residents of Hampstead voted against a proposed housing project on Côte Saint-Luc Road.

The votes came in at 593 residents voting no and 267 voting yes on passing the motion to demolish two affordable housing buildings on Côte Saint-Luc Road and have a luxury condo complex built in their place.

Residents voted in a referendum to determine not only the fate of the two affordable apartment buildings but that of the tenants living in them.

“This is a big deal,” said Leah Lasry, head of the “no” campaign. “I mean, this needs to be thought out.”

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The two four-storey buildings are about 70 years old and have 26 apartments between them. Developers wanted to replace them with a new complex that would be 10 floors and have 90 units. But opponents say, among other problems, rent in the new building would be too much, especially for new tenants.

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“When you get rid of the last affordable housing in this way, on Côte Saint-Luc Road, what are you essentially doing?” Lasry wondered. “I mean it will be impossible to live here… It’ll be cost-prohibitive.”

Neighbours also feared an increase in traffic and argue that the proposed building would block out the sunlight. Some residents wished they had been consulted more.

“When you do urban planning, you talk with citizens, you talk with people, you try to create a consensus, and expelling people from a building is certainly not a consensus,” Hampstead resident Martin Leblanc said,

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Mayor William Steinberg supports the project, saying the current buildings are old and that the town needs the revenue that a new building would generate.

“That will allow us to have a zero per cent tax increase this year,” he told Global News, “and have money to spend $5.2 million over the next couple years on infrastructure.”

Inhabitants say the buildings are fine, though, and that owners should maintain them.

The debate has been tense and the process has left some residents feeling discouraged and drained. Still, they hope the fight will make town authorities consult with residents more in the future.

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“It’s going to change the possibility for them to just bulldoze an existing building that is perfect, in good shape, for the people,” said Marie Pontini, a resident in one of the buildings in question. “The gentrification is terrible.”

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