Negotiate on height in exchange for social housing, suggests Action Gatineau

The idea comes from the mayor of Longueuil, Catherine Fournier. The government has been allowing cities to do this for just a few months. The head of Action Gatineau and candidate for mayor, Maude Marquis-Bissonnette, wants to take advantage of this opportunity to both provide the real estate stock with the types of housing missing in the market and help developers to more easily finance their projects by making it possible to build higher.

The regulatory tool that Ms. Marquis-Bissonnette proposes to put forward if she is elected on June 9 is “incentive zoning”. It can come into force through the adoption of a by-law by the council and only targets very specific areas on the territory. “We don’t use this in a residential area,” quickly insists the head of Action Gatineau, “but we target areas where we are open to negotiation for more height or larger volumes allowing a greater number of units […] we target areas where we allow negotiation between the City and the developer.”

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“We don’t use this in a residential area,” quickly insists the head of Action Gatineau, “but we target areas where we are open to negotiation for more height or larger volumes allowing a greater number of units […] we target areas where we allow negotiation between the City and the developer.” (Simon Séguin-Bertrand/Archives Le Droit)

To give an example, Ms. Marquis-Bissonnette summoned the media to the very back of the very large parking lot in the commercial core where the Toys’R’Us store is located, on Chemin de la Savane, in the Gatineau sector. “It’s not for nothing that we are here,” she said. This is part of the land to be redeveloped for affordable housing units. There are currently developers working on this land to develop housing, high up, with a complete living environment. This is a good place to do it. We are close to the Rapibus.”

It is on this type of place that the head of Action Gatineau would be ready to open negotiations with real estate developers. “It’s a very powerful tool that allows us to recalibrate development and provide housing focused on the needs of the community,” she said. It is also a tool that allows the City to encourage and prioritize construction in certain sectors. There would be a discussion to be had on that.”

No marketing with roaming

The idea of ​​keeping the homeless camp on the Guertin site, but of better supervised it and of holding more frequent cleaning chores, as it was presented to the municipal council on Tuesday, is welcomed by Ms. Marquis-Bissonnette .

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“The solutions will come from the community and these are the solutions that I will bring,” says Maude Marquis-Bissonnette. (Patrick Woodbury/Le Droit)

However, she does not wish to comment immediately on the issues linked to homelessness.

An important meeting bringing together all the actors and stakeholders in homelessness is being held this Thursday. Precise decisions could come from it.

“Politicians must get involved in homelessness, but I find that currently, there is a risk of overbidding to find solutions,” she observes. This is what we observed this week. We must not do political marketing with homelessness. There are vulnerable people. The solutions will come from the community and these are the solutions that I will bring.”

Pre-emptive rights

The municipal council adopted an affordable housing strategy several months ago, notes Ms. Marquis-Bissonnette. The tools she provides, however, are slow to be implemented and there is reason to accelerate the pace, particularly for the right of pre-emption, because the real response to homelessness is the construction of housing, she says.

This new power allows the City of Gatineau to identify buildings in the private domain for which it has a first purchase option if they become for sale. The tool is available, but the identification of buildings where the right of pre-emption would be imposed has still not been made. “The idea is first to make it fully effective,” explains Ms. Marquis-Bissonnette.

>>>The inclusion regulation which has been the spearhead of Action Gatineau's housing strategy for years.>>>

The inclusion regulation which has been the spearhead of Action Gatineau’s housing strategy for years. (Simon Séguin-Bertrand/Archives Le Droit)

However, it is not enough to use the right of pre-emption; the City must then have the necessary sums to acquire, at the market price, the building in question. In this regard, the head of Action Gatineau recognizes that there is a financial reserve to consolidate. She specifies that she will make financial commitments later in the campaign.

Maude Marquis-Bissonnette also puts on ice the inclusion regulation which has been the spearhead of Action Gatineau’s housing strategy for years.

This regulatory tool which makes it possible to force a developer to build a certain number of affordable housing units in each of its projects has been the subject of extensive debates between elected officials for two years, without ever being adopted. The Bélisle administration was strongly opposed to it.

Action Gatineau lets go. “The environment and context have changed since the 2021 election campaign,” says Ms. Marquis-Bissonnette. The idea was rejected and construction costs increased significantly. I don’t rule out coming back to it, but it currently has a window open to other tools.”

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