Côte-Saint-Luc Road has become the focal point of a debate in Hampstead’s election campaign, and whether some tenants have a place in the town.
“Why would I want my neighbours to be kicked out of their homes and not be able to come back?” Hampstead resident Adriana Decker wanted to know.
The dispute is over whether the Hampstead section of the major thoroughfare, between Dufferin Street and Holtham Avenue, should be up-zoned to allow for 10-storey apartment buildings.
High-rises are now capped at five floors.
According to mayoral incumbent William Steinberg, up-zoning “would bring in $1.8 million additional tax revenue.”
He pointed out that aside from residential properties, the town has no other major source of income. That additional revenue, he insists, could help fund a major project he believes the municipality needs.
“Building a new civic centre within four years in Hampstead Park,” he told Global News.
Zeev Rosberger, who lives not far from the town hall on Queen Mary Road agrees with Steingberg’s vision, saying the garden community has no commercial tax base and so the additional revenue would be welcome.
“This is an opportunity to add to the life of the community, to keep taxes low yet develop projects that will benefit the community.”
New 10-storey buildings would mean demolishing existing moderate-income apartments on the street, according to Steinberg.
Those who disagree with the incumbent mayor point to the housing crisis in Montreal.
“There is an urgent need for moderate-income housing,” Decker stressed, “and that is what Hampstead has now.”
In response to that argument, Steinberg said, “social and affordable housing — Montreal is responsible for doing those things.”
He noted that Hampstead’s agglomeration taxes help pay for those kinds of dwellings.
The new 10-storey apartments would likely be too expensive for current tenants, he claimed.
“It’s going to draw people from other buildings where they can afford these,” he said, “and that’s going to create more vacancies in the cheaper buildings.”
He maintained that the town would help tenants find new places.
Decker said she was angered by Steinberg’s reasoning.
“They want to enjoy the amazing parks and amenities we have.”
Jeremy Levi, Steinberg’s opponent for mayor, thinks any plan to re-develop Côte-Saint-Luc Road shouldn’t be rushed.
Homeowners on Queen Mary Road argue 10-storey buildings on Côte-Saint-Luc would block sunlight and lead to even more traffic congestion in the area.
Levi also calls into question the plan for a new civic centre.
“A $20 million civic centre is not necessarily in the best interest of Hampstead,” he said.
Levi believes it would put the town in debt, noting one at half the cost could be manageable.
Residents go to the polls on Nov. 7.