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Joel Ceausu – The Suburban LJI Reporter

Joel DeBellefeuille says the city and the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM) should be ashamed about a vacant Loyola building.

The issue with 5210 Walkley goes back years, says the former municipal candidate. “There has not been the slightest change in the progress of this dwelling since lawn cutting, trimming of bushes and trees and siding installed in August 2021.”

As reported in The Suburban, DeBellefeuille served notice to the city that summer, charging Montreal violated its citizen charter obligations by allowing the property to languish in disrepair, posing possible threats to the safety and well-being of residents. Within days, cleaning and repair crews were on site.

He’s again sounding the alarm over the decrepit property, writing to the OMHM, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, CDN-NDG Borough Mayor Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, Loyola councillor Despina Sourias and others.

Annual OMHM major work budgets are around $81 million, and if all goes well, says the OMHM’s Mathieu Vachon, “Chester could receive the necessary budgets towards the end of 2025, or earlier if possible.” Generally, the prioritization of work must be done annually according to allocated budgets.

DeBellefeuille says annual budgets in the tens of millions with none left for long-neglected Walkley “speaks volumes.” A call for tenders was launched in 2019 for Habitations Chester but the OMHM could not prioritize it with available budgets and work did not take place.

The founder of the Red Coalition anti-racism group called the situation “unacceptable, especially in the current context of the housing crisis… It also shows the lack of will of the city to build bridges with members of the black and racialized community living in the neighbourhood. The OMHM is complicit in this failure.”

In NDG last November, Plante said cash for crumbling properties is coming and cited Ville Marie borough’s 300 shuttered accommodations: “It’s a shame,” she said, “but the will is there, and the money will be there.” At that meeting, resident Rodney Davide said it’s an insult. “A middle finger in our faces. Empty government housing with fences in the middle of a neighbourhood? NDG has to wait until 2025?”

At CDN-NDG borough council this month, local leadership was criticized for lack of progress in housing, and the Mayor’s inability to provide the number of local housing units built or renovated in recent years.

Plante’s office says city inspectors do everything necessary to ensure site security, adding “historical underfunding by governments in maintenance of low-income housing is no secret. OMHM buildings have a significant maintenance deficit, which can unfortunately lead to buildings being evacuated and barricaded.”

The $100 million joint investment by Quebec and Ottawa announced in May 2021 was “the first of several steps in the right direction. We are sensitive to the situation of citizens whose neighbourhoods are affected by barricaded buildings.” n

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