Lionel Njeukam is breathing a sigh of relief that — for now, at least — his home won't be turned to rubble.
Njeukam is one of several residents of a low-rise apartment building on Nepean Street slated to be demolished so that developers Glenview Homes and Taggart Management can use the land for a surface-level parking lot for a new 27-storey mixed-use tower.
The plan for the tower, which would be built on an existing adjacent parking lot, was met with opposition from both the building's residents and members of the community.
On Thursday, the city's planning committee voted to approve the new tower, but also to defer the demolition request so they could discuss it further.
"This is a temporary relief," said Njeukam, who moved into the two-bedroom apartment with his family in early 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is an affordable building. We pay $1,200 a month. And if they tear it down, we might be paying much more in a few years."
Problem 'just being deferred'
The developers' plans offer similar rent at two nearby buildings for the next five years, a package Njeukam acknowledged is "generous."
And while some residents have signed up, Njeukam told CBC Radio's All In A Day it doesn't really address the core issue of the affordable housing shortfall.
"The problem is just being deferred. In five years from now, when they stop matching the price below the ... average market rates, what are we going to do? We will have to pay $800 to $1,000 more for rent," he said.
"Right now we cannot afford that. I'm not sure in five years we'll be able to afford that."
The new development would include 25 units that meet the definition of affordable housing, but Njeukam said he doesn't think they'll truly be affordable for many low-income families.
No parking lot, no tower: developer
Glenview Homes president Mark Shabinsky told the planning committee Thursday that the decision before them was straightforward.
"The tower will not proceed unless we have control of our parking next door. It's not a threat, it's simply a commercial reality we're dealing with," he said.
"And while our hope and efforts to date have been that this development is going to proceed — because we believe it's a win for everybody involved — at the end of the day, if it does not proceed, we are content with the status quo."
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney said putting a 27-storey tower on top of an existing parking lot was a good way to create density, but demolishing the affordable low-rise Nepean Street homes to build a new lot didn't make sense.
"If we continue going down this road, people will be living in their cars. We will need parking lots," McKenney said. "People will need to park their cars there, because that's where they're going to have to live."
The planning committee will discuss the possible demolition again at its next meeting in August.