CBC: Trinity offers cash in lieu of affordable housing at tower project

Kate Porter

Trinity Development Group has agreed to pay the city more than $6 million toward future affordable housing, but it's unlikely any of those units will be in what will become Ottawa's tallest building at 900 Albert St.

The project, which has been approved by city council, will have 1,200 units in three towers, the tallest of which will be 65 storeys. The complex will be located where the two O-Train lines merge at Bayview station.

They didn't have to do this ... so good on Trinity for doing so in good faith.- Coun. Catherine McKenney

When the zoning was being debated in 2018, Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney tried to secure a quarter of those units for affordable housing, but learned there was no way to compel Trinity to do that. Instead, council agreed to "encourage" the company to include affordable housing.

"They didn't have to do this ... so good on Trinity for doing so in good faith," McKenney told CBC News on Monday. 

But according to McKenney, the agreement nevertheless highlights why the city needs new zoning rules that force developers to include affordable housing, so it doesn't have to "chase funds" to build living units that appeal to families.

"These will be ... towers for people who are wealthy. They'll be luxury towers, so not a complete community," McKenney said.

McKenney wants money used nearby

Trinity and the city have negotiated a legal agreement that would see the company pay $6,250,000 toward the general reserve for affordable housing.

McKenney plans to push for that money to stay in her ward, as well as another $1.25 million the city will earn by selling adjacent land to Trinity.

"There's lots that we can do with this [money]. I have lots of ideas,"  McKenney said.

For instance, she suggests it could help senior artists afford to live in a development Ottawa Community Housing intends to build on the Trillium Line at Gladstone Avenue.

In addition to the $6.25 million contribution to the affordable housing reserve, Trinity will agree to pay for other community benefits:

  • $525,000 for affordable housing in Somerset ward.

  • $350,000 for the ward's community parks.

  • $100,000 for its community gardens.

The deal must be approved by planning committee on Oct. 10 and city council on Oct. 23.

An agreement on affordable housing is one of the boxes Trinity needs to tick in order to get approval for its detailed plans, a package that will go before councillors by the end of the year.

In addition the to controversy over its height, the 900 Albert project gained notoriety as the catalyst for the dispute between Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity's John Ruddy that was seen as the beginning of the end of their partnership to redevelop LeBreton Flats.

Catherine McKenney