More and more luxury condos are being raised in Waterloo Region as housing prices skyrocket across the country. Affordable housing is now needed more than ever, but the demand far outweighs the dwindling supply. We take a look at the issue of affordable housing on the ground level with the residents of May Place. The landlords have banded together to sell the land in a parcel sale. Residents are stuck looking for new lodging in an unforgiving housing market. But two residents are looking for a way to fight back and perhaps even keep their homes.


This version of the podcast contains un-beeped curse words. You can download a clean version below.


Transcript

Phi Doan: It’s a very nice garden that’s very nice here today.

Tamara Lauren: That’s very nice of you to say. I’ve been not proactive at all about pest this year.

Phi Doan: I’m in Kitchener, in this little hidden away subdivision walking around the community garden. A little area known as May Place. Very lush. Lots of vegetables. Maybe a bit too much kale. People were out hanging their laundry on clothing lines kids were running around chasing each other. It felt like a small-town neighborhood rather than well the middle of Kitchener. I’m there to speak with two other residents there Katie Irwin and Tamara Lauren. I caught them in the middle of watering their garden beds.

Katie Irwin: So, we decided to grow corn this year, and the corn was like maybe three feet high at this point like a couple days ago when I looked. And then this morning I came over here and they were gone. Like it was actually up to here almost

Phi Doan: Oh wow.

Katie Irwin: And now it’s gone. So I think it’s been some sort of bigger creature.

Phi Doan: Could be even just a stray dog.

Katie Irwin: Yeah something it must have been. But there’s chicken wire all around it so it couldn’t have been anything too little.

Phi Doan: It’s quaint little place at night. You can even see fireflies flicking around the garden. There were bats swooping down all over. I wasn’t too excited about the mosquitoes as much as the bats were, I’m sure. But this wasn’t really a social call. I wasn’t there to hang out. I was there to talk to them about the prospect of losing their homes.

You see, earlier this year, the landlords that own the various properties that make up May Place decided to get together and sell their land as part of a parcel sale. That’s 1.3 acres of land being bundled together with a hefty price tag being set at a whopping 14 million dollars. Just standing alone street you could almost see a complete lineup of for sale signs along the building properties. Almost none of the people living there own their property of course. They all rent.

It’s become a fast cliche in headlines nowadays. A piece of property going up for millions of dollars or being sold well above the asking price. In fact, this September the Waterloo Record had an article on a single detached home in Kitchener that sold for 1.45 million dollars, after only being on the market for 11 days.

Of course, the subtext is where the real story is. People are losing their homes; people can’t afford their homes; the rent is too high; we have an affordable housing problem.

From insideWaterloo, I’m Phi Doan. Today we’re taking a look at May Place, where residents are living on borrowed time, before the land is sold off to developers. Affordable housing options in Waterloo Region are dwindling as more expensive luxury condos are being built in their place. But two residents of May Place are hoping to fight back and save their homes.

Just a quick show note: this version of the story you’re listening to does contain curse words. If you prefer a bleep version of the story just head to our website at insideWaterloo.ca. Now back to the story.


Phi Doan: My colleague Fitsum Areguy was actually the one who brought my attention to May Place. In between schoolwork and writing for insideWaterloo, he does activism on the side. Which meant his name often got floated around whenever it came to issues of social justice.

Fitsum Areguy: And my wife – before she was my wife – she lived at May Place and many people who I’ve known throughout the years have lived there, but there are some people who have urgent anchors in that in that little pocket. And every now and again I’ll walk by and see it. And one of my friends, Katie lives at May Place now in one of the places in that little neighborhood, and so she was the one who flagged me; she messaged me; she DM me on Instagram to say, “Hey this is happening right now. What do I do?” So you know, my knee-jerk reaction was, okay you need to you need to talk to some people who do housing advocacy, and then the next thing I said was well let’s do something insideWaterloo.

Phi Doan: Next thing you know, I’m driving around trying to find May Place and somewhere in the park. Like I said before, May Place was one of those hidden subdivisions that were set up back in the 1980s. The driveways were easy to miss if you didn’t have directions on hand.

There were a few areas in downtown Kitchener like May Place although none of them quite had the same amount of green space as it did there was Mitchell Street off of Queen that had its own little community garden right next door. That being said on its other side was a giant pit where another luxury condo was in development.

Anyways, I eventually did find May Place after parking nearby and walking on foot. I was able to sit down with Katie and Tamara at the picnic table in the middle of May Place, and I started recording.

Katie Irwin: Started with one sale, turned into this giant parcel sale

Phi Doan: That’s Katie

Katie Irwin: All of them are investment properties except for Barb and Pat. So, they own their property. They’re the only actual homeowners’ apart of the parcel sale. Everyone else’s landlords

Tamara Lauren: Yeah, and Pat kind of manages the community garden here

Phi Doan: And that’s Tamara.

Tamara Lauren: They’re very attached to the space.

Katie: Irwin: So, when we actually found out about the, like, officially found out about the parcel sale, was through a letter that we got in April.

Tamara Lauren: Yeah, like once the realtor picked it up, they put letters in all of our mailboxes

Katie Irwin: Yeah, so in April we got a letter that just essentially said “We are selling the property part of a parcel sale that is going for 14 million dollars. Doesn’t mean you’re going to be getting kicked out anytime soon, but there will be people coming around to check out the property.”

Phi Doan: And what’s the communication been like after that

Tamara Lauren: Oh, I still haven’t had any. My landlord’s never even said that they were putting up for-sale. I mean I realized that, they probably were like, she knows. But it’s the principal thing.

Phi Doan: Right.

Tamara Lauren: And yeah, no they’ve never communicated anything to me.

Phi Doan: Now Tamara has been living in the downtown core for 10 years here and there. With May Place it will be two years in the fall since she’s moved into her current home, taking over from her friends that lived there before her. Now news of the sale wasn’t too surprising to her. This wasn’t the first time she had to move because of property developers

Tamara Lauren: I was like a little bit younger – it was Walter Street by Central Fresh Market right. There’s three houses all by the same guy who just, like, honestly wasn’t a terrible landlord necessarily. Although like the spectrum for that is so strange to even sort of qualify – like what exactly – like what are the standards for that? But we knew that that’s what his plan was. Now there’s a condo there and that was a it. Didn’t have a community garden or, like, anything that particularly organized, but it did have it was quite a bit of green space.

Phi Doan: And sadly, this story was one of many we’re too familiar with if you ever had to deal with the housing and rental markets in the past few years. Especially the residents of May Place that I ended up speaking with. There was this general feeling of powerlessness in a lot of my interaction. There’s not much you can do as a single person in the housing market aside from well try, try, and try again.

Add on to that the additional everyday pressures of the pandemic now, and you can’t help but be a bit cynical. There was Audrey Patty, an ultrasound technologist, who’s been here for three going on four years now. She grew up in the rural areas of Windsor so the green space in the middle of downtown suited her very well. She had an entire house to herself, along with a backyard and access to the community gardens just outside her doors.

Phi Doan: What’s it been like just living in this space? Like it’s a very unique space with this…

Audrey Patty: For sure. For sure. For one thing it’s always takes some doing to get people to figure out where you are, you know? I always tell them depending upon which direction you’re coming, as soon as you pass the fire hydrant, turn down the driveway. I know it’s a driveway, but it’s really a street, so that’s always get some chuckles you know.

And I often have people pulling into the racquet club parking lot because they still can’t figure it out, so we have to get out and, you know, go and direct them where it is, but it is such a nice little nook, you know. I’ve got a good-sized backyard you know. I’ve got lots of space for when my family comes over, and I can have my grandkids sleep over and stuff like that.

Phi Doan: Like Tamara and Katie, she also felt sidelined by the news of the parcel sale. Notice in the mailbox. Heard nothing from her landlord for about a week. Not that we’ve done much, but you know, have some courtesy for the people you’re kicking out. She compared getting the notice to a ticking time bomb. At some point it will go off and there’s not much you can do at that point.

Phi Doan: Have you started looking for other places? Have you…

Audrey Patty: I looked around, but I hurt my back April first and just trying to maintain my life at this point, that’s kind of taken a toll on me. You know, it seems like right now, during COVID, every time I turn around, I’m getting kicked by something else, you know. And it’s absolutely exhausting and frustrating and it’s all stuff that I don’t have control over.

To get something – if I if I looked now – to get something the same price point, I’d be looking at a bachelor apartment. If I was lucky, you know. And, you know, in my stage of life, you really don’t want to. I don’t want to live in a place where I’m in close quarters. I’ve always had space. I came from a farm to this, you know. And I’m fine with being downtown you know. But I like my little – it’s a lovely little cozy spot where, you know.

Phi Doan: Yeah.

Audrey Patty: I’m enjoying it.

Phi Doan: Do you mind me if I ask how much you pay in terms of rent?

Audrey Patty: 1,375

Phi Doan: 1,375, all right.

Audrey Patty: Yeah, I’d be paying at least a thousand dollars or more or more per month to get something equitable, which I mean it was… it was pretty standard, maybe a little bit low three and a half years ago – not astronomically, but the price like it’s just insane how much it’s gone up in that time.

Phi Doan: The idea of buying her home somehow was floated by friends and family, who were willing to help, but that option just wasn’t on the table. All the landlords were working together looking for a large payoff to their parcel sale. At this point, Audrey’s not sure what she’ll do.

Phi Doan: I mean there’s a good chance they’ll keep the name at the very least you know.

Gage: Oh my god. oh my god that hurts my feelings so much. I was like, no. They would call it May Place.

Phi Doan: The May Place.

Gage: The May Place. They would. They would.

Phi Doan: Another resident I spoke with was Gage. They’ve been living in the downtown core for most of their life before settling in May Place.

Gage: Yeah, I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 14 or 15. And by moved out I mean I was kicked out and I was homeless downtown as a youth for quite a while, so like living is a loose term.

Phi Doan: Gage was the support worker at the consumption treatment site in Guelph and Kitchener, as well as a single parent. Suffice to say raising kids is a bit different in a condo compared to a community garden.

Gage: Mulberries. We got two mulberry trees here which the kids just like get to hang out under and like there’s so many berries and they’re so accessible. It’s the best. It’s just like a weird little community full of fruits and veggies and children and screaming. Lots of children screaming.

Phi Doan Gage have fond memories of May Place. For them looking through the rental markets was more an exercise in anger and depression.

Gage: It’s unreasonable the idea that I could ever pay, like, upwards of 1,800 or like 15 to 1,800 for two bedroom – fifteen if you’re lucky – for me and my kid to have our own rooms. And I was even looking at like bachelors and like one bedroom is for my kid and I would just – I was – I decided I would just put a curtain up or something and it would just be like a one bedroom, and then I would sleep in the living room, and I’m like that’s actually just really messed up to be. And that’s not even just downtown that’s all of Kitchener.

Phi Doan: There was one group I wasn’t able to speak with or rather they didn’t want to be recorded. There were a number of Laotian families living in the row houses facing Weber Street. Their properties also entangled in the parcel sale. A number of times we had to pause the recordings as the kids ran around screaming their lungs off chasing each other, it’s quite sweet.

Tamara Lauren: So cute, and they’re like really team oriented they really like to sing um Katy Perry.

Katie Irwin: Oh yeah.

Tamara Lauren: What were you going to…

Katie Irwin: Frozen. They sing a lot of Frozen.

Tamara Lauren: Yeah. Their mums who, like they – their families have like five of the plots plus they did the whole corner plot there on the other side of the fence, which isn’t technically part of the community garden. That’s like literally just a corner of the parking over there that they turned into a gardene and they have, like, they also just garden all along the fence like…

Katie Irwin: Which is insane to think about because it’s like a literal gravel parking lot

Tamara Lauren: Yeah

Katie Irwin: They have created like the — it’s 30 times better than my garden…

Phi Doan: [Laughing]

Katie Irwin: …like would never be able to garden the way that they can.

Tamara Lauren: Every… everywhere you can manage to grow something, they have…

Katie Irwin: Grown more.

Tamara Lauren: [Laughing]

Katie Irwin:  Grown more than I could ever. It’s beautiful.

Phi Doan: I can’t speak to their concerns or thoughts on the parcel sale, though I can’t imagine it being any easier for them, especially when children are involved. And if they were recent immigrants or refugees, having to navigate the housing market can be even tougher.

So, what exactly do you do in this situation? May Place is just another example of the larger national problem the country is facing. One that various levels of government have yet to really institute any substantial solution to these past few years to put a damper on the markets. Hell at this point there are people even hoping for another housing crisis a la 2008. It feels like that’s the only way they could ever afford a home at this point.

Going back to Katie and Tamara, they’re hoping to at least fight back. Afterall, what do they have to lose that they weren’t going to lose already? The first thing they did was reach out to their local representative, so that meant a couple of emails off to Ward 7 Councilor Sarah Marsh.

Katie Irwin: I happened to have multiple interactions with her because of a work situation, and she finally was like, “so where do you live?” and I was like, “oh I live part of the… like part of the parcel sale that’s on May Place, so get ready to endure many emails from me because we will be in conversation.” And she was just like, “I kind of messaged that Caroline girl back?” I was like “Kerrie?”

Tamara Lauren: So rude.

Katie Irwin: And she was like, “Yeah I looked into it. I can’t do a single thing,” and I was like, “You absolutely can,” and she was just like, “No, I looked into it already.” I was like, “Already? Nothing has happened. How do you know.” Whatever, anyway so we – to be fair. To be fair we haven’t had any legitimate conversations with city council.

Phi Doan: I reached out to Sarah marsh about those conversations and what council’s general view of the housing situation was.

Sarah Marsh: Yeah, the housing market is crazy right now. It is really off the charts unlike we’ve ever seen before, so it’s something that council is very much concerned about, and is taking steps to try to address within the scope of what we can do.

Phi Doan: And no surprises here that housing has and continues to be a huge topic amongst councilors. So, was there anything that the City of Kitchener could do?

Sarah Marsh: That’s a tricky one because, honestly, when it comes to private sales of land, we don’t get involved as a city council at all in private buying and selling of land. So, there’s nothing that we can do about stopping any sale.

Phi Doan: What powers does council have in this situation?

Sarah Marsh: So, for any piece of land, as you know, the city has jurisdiction over things like zoning. So zoning would include density, height, you know restricting shadow impacts on neighboring properties, and things like that.

Phi Doan: Marsh says they haven’t really mentioned May Place in any council discussions as the issue of housing was a bigger problem than any one place. Now the City of Kitchener does have a housing strategy that hopes to tackle the issue. It’s called the “Housing for All” strategy, which actually won it the 2021 Peter J Marshall Innovation Award at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference.

At that point it had led to the development of more than a hundred new supportive housing units in Kitchener. Not an insignificant accomplishment but still lagging behind in the grand scheme of things. But in order to tackle more of it Marsh said it would require further funding. Effectively kicking the issue up the chain to the provincial and federal levels.

Sarah Marsh: Yeah, and so if we need to work within the scope of what the city is able to do to work with our partners in other levels of government and within the nonprofit sector to really build up the choices that residents have for affordable housing. From all different walks of life. All different income levels need still need affordable housing.

Phi Doan: She did say that any residents that needed help with housing could reach out to her and she would provide resources however she can. Which was cold comfort for people like Katie and Tamara. But they’re not taking this lying down though. They came up with this proposal to save their homes. A community land trust. Here’s Tamara again.

Tamara Lauren: I don’t really like the term investors in this case, but like that’s essentially what it would be. To have a competitive offer around the 14 million and it would be a sort of non-profit organization that would form a board and then the land itself is purchased under and that would be the trust essentially. And it’s, you know, you can come and go. You can continue to rent, as we’ve learned, so some people’s situations wouldn’t change and then the board itself, the non-profit, would be the holders, officially, of the land. And it just kind of takes it out of the real estate market. Typically, it has things like a 99-year lease to just keep it so that properties remain perpetual affordability.

Katie Irwin: What we’re planning on doing is mobilizing. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is…

Tamara Lauren: Yeah.

Katie Irwin: …it’s just that it’s – it doesn’t matter what the outcome is as long as it’s better than turning over and letting it happen to us.

Phi Doan: Now the idea of community owning land together is not a new idea. You can find those in many places in pre-colonial times in the history books, but the community land trust that we’re talking about can trace its roots to the American Civil Rights Movement back in the 1960s and it spread across the country from there.

New Communities Inc., for example, formed in 1969 to secure land for African American families. Now the idea has spread to Canada with a number of land trusts across the country, but it is still very new here. Barring the land trust, Katie and Tamara at least hope to make enough noise to pressure wherever developers come along to either compensate the residents they’re kicking out, or guarantee units for them in the future developments. That’s plan B. For now, the two of them have been holding a number of meetings with people on just how to go about establishing a community land trust/

Tamara Lauren: We’re still talking to the SDC. They are kind of more like, “Hey what are you guys doing? We’re gonna support what you’re doing,” and so yeah. That’s more of a like “we’re gonna throw our weight behind wherever you guys kind of put yourself,” so I think now that there’s a clear direction forward and a real substantial, like, here’s what we want and there is also, like, we want to take the land trust prospect as far as we can.

Phi Doan: The SDC. The Social Development Center. Now they’ve been monitoring the housing situation locally for a while. They even documented how many people got displaced by the light rail ion construction.

Aleksandra Petrovic: Well, we recognized the Pattern through our research mapping the loss of affordable homes and units along LRT in Kitchener-Waterloo in the last five to seven years.

Phi Doan: I connected with Petrovic at the center about their work.

Aleksandra Petrovic: I think it was a referral. Someone referred them to Social Development Center and the first conversation we had was together with our eviction prevention outreach worker.

Phi Doan: So, what’s their view of the community land trust?

Aleksandra Petrovic: If they were easy to create and acquire, we would have far more of them already in the region. We know that, you know, Toronto and in other parts, there may be a few, but they’re not an easy solution. They require not only particular supports and expertise, resources, funding and planning. A lot of planning. So, it is a work that currently is on the radar, but it is a rare and unique process and SDC does not have expertise in that regard.

Phi Doan: Admittedly that wasn’t the answer I was expecting. But then again, I haven’t had to go through this routine over and over again. It’s not like a movie or tv show where the community comes together to save the rec center with the help of a famous musical guest. They’re being realistic while also calling for real solutions from the top down. Grassroots at this point means gathering evidence and providing resources however they can. But should the land trust happen it would provide the SDC with another tool in its belt but that’s a massive if though.


Phi Doan: I’m walking around the block with Katie just looking at all the for-sale signs that littered the property. Katie’s reminiscing on their time here.

Katie Irwin: Oh, so beautiful. I’m pretty sad. Yeah, it’s been a really beautiful community. When my close friends Kerrie got me this apartment – when I was getting out of a relationship – and it was such a…

Phi Doan: Keep going.

Katie Irwin: Such a like safe haven for me. There’s so many people that live within this community that I’ve become quite close with and that we all kind of share similar ideals and yeah, even when COVID started it was like, one person would go to the store and we would get everybody’s groceries and yeah. It’s just – it’s a community that I haven’t had before in my adult life.

Phi Doan: So have you begun any work into looking for a new place just in case.

Katie Irwin: No I’m feeling pretty optimistic. Just in the sense of, you know, I do think that it’ll be developed in some way. Whether it’s the land trust. Whether it’s the concept of a developer coming in and completely, like, taking out this entire community. I know that I want to be part of that situation because I don’t… I don’t want to run away because that’s the easy thing to do is to find another place and to let this thing happen. I don’t want to let this happen. I want to raise hell. I want to talk about it.

Phi Doan: Tamara hasn’t bothered to look for any housing at this time she’ll cross that bridge once she gets to it. She believes that there’s enough time for them to push for the land trust based off the 14 million price tag. It might be too high for developers and the landlords either have to adjust or wait long enough for someone with a big enough wallet to come by.


Phi Doan: August 14th. A national protest took place across Canada. It originally began as a thread on reddit called r/Canadahousing. Usually it’d be more focused on general housing advice from how to deal with your landlords or tips on buying your first house, but of course the main topic nowadays on subreddit is the ever increasing difficulty of obtaining housing, let alone buying.

570NEWS: Joining a course of voices across the province on Saturday, local residents held their own leg of a national housing protest in Waterloo. 570’s Luke Schultz has more.

Luke Schultz: With simultaneous major protests held in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver, the space outside Waterloo City Hall was packed with demonstrators, expressing their concern over the housing crisis in Canada. Speaking to 570 NEWS ahead of Saturday’s kickoff was Laila Morrison, one of the local rally’s organizers addressing the movement’s call for more housing supply, improved social housing and further effort to address market speculators.

[DJ spinning tunes]

Phi Doan: I actually did attend the rally speaking with people about their housing situation. The music you’re hearing behind me at the moment is coming from one of the organizers, who spent most of the time at the rally spinning tunes. The crowd was around 60 to 70 people at its peak and there were people lined up along sidewalks carrying signs and talking with media. I heard many of the typical stories that we’ve come accustomed to or are painfully aware of ourselves.

Demonstrator 1: It seems like that I still don’t make enough to buy a house, and barely to even rent. It’s been really difficult. I first tried to buy, but my mortgage pre-approval was way too low for what it is in my city and with rentals I got outbidded just this past week, so now to look again for another place.

Phi Doan: There are those who have to make tough decisions when it comes to housing because of their own situations, whether it’s school related, family situations, or having to deal with the complex and often infuriating realities of social assistance.

Demonstrator 2: I am on social assistance and I can’t even find a room to stay in for September, so my choice is either to move back in with my parents and not get any money, or to go on the streets.

Phi Doan: Even people doing well for themselves stopped the housing market without control.

Phi Doan: You’re an electrician though, like I’m guessing there’s good money there, right?

Demonstrator 3: Yeah, I’m easily double minimum and still affording a place for me and my kids. I have two boys. They uh – affording that, it easily takes up fifty percent or more than fifty percent of my wages.

Phi Doan: But you’re already making…

Demonstrator 3: Yeah, and I’m making good money.

Phi Doan: And of course the ever popular topic of landlords cropped up here and there

Phi Doan: And you haven’t have to worry about your landlord thinking about, like, “I could probably get a bit more money if I just kicked this guy?”

Demonstrator 4: Yeah…

Demonstrator 5: Actually, funny story.

Phi Doan: Oh.

Demonstrator 5: He does pay less. He’s lived there eight years.

Demonstrator 4: Well about 10 years.

Demonstrator 5:  Yeah, about 10 years. He’s never had to pay to put in an air conditioner, and this year they charged him 250 to use it.

Demonstrator 6: Literally I don’t have a closet. I asked him about that. I was, like, I want a closet, but like, you can’t… you can’t be picky, right? You know?

Demonstrator 7: You have windows in your bedroom, my goodness. You have a stove.

[Laughing]

Phi Doan: It was election season, so a few candidates showed up briefly, but Waterloo city councilors were largely missing in action, aside from one or two hidden away in the crowd behind their mask. From what one of them told me, they’re aware of the protest. They know these issues. Of course, they know. They get these messages, emails, delegations all of the time. They’ve been working on plans to address the housing issue with staff constantly monitoring it.

But the phrase we’re working on it isn’t the most satisfying answer to give. But it’s basically what’s been going on. Of course, there are those who will say it’s still not enough and you’d be hard-pressed to argue with them. Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky was actually in his office at the time of the protest and gave CTV News this statement, which also happens to echo what’s been going on with the City of Kitchener.

Dave Jaworsky: We have a 250-million-dollar plan to build more affordable housing over the next 10 years, but that will require funding from the federal, provincial levels.

CTV NEWS: Suggesting those concerned to visit Engage Waterloo Region and provide feedback to the regional official plan.

Dave Jaworsky: You don’t see this coming back down and so we need to figure out a way collectively. To figure out how we’re going to handle this.

Phi Doan: The City of Waterloo is expected to finalize its housing strategy before the end of the year.


Patrick Cull: We’ve been missing rabbits for a couple years and now they’re back in abundance.

Barbara Hobot: Oh, he’s probably going to go find some kale

Phi Doan: Do rabbits really like kale?

Barbara Hobot: I don’t know actually

Phi Doan: I have a hard time finding any people – anybody that likes kale.

Patrick Cull:  It’s because you have to get it young…

Phi Doan: One of my last interviews at May Place was with Barb Hobot and Pat Cull. The married couple have been here for a while, since around the time the Blackberry boom was starting to wind down, so about 14 years now. The two of them are in charge of the community garden and they told me stories about some of their neighbors that used to live here. The picnic table, in particular, was actually built by previous resident.

Barb and Pat actually owned their property and are part of that parcel sale. However, it really doesn’t seem like their heart was into it. But at this point, they just don’t feel like they have a lot of options.

Patrick Cull: But by the time we were involved, there was a critical mass and it was sort of a very rough sort of napkin proposal that this whole block would be redeveloped.

Barbara Hobot: Yeah, there were a number of homeowners or, like, I guess landlords, right? That were willing to or thought that it was the right time to sell, and so at that point we were approached and we were like, oh okay. Everybody wants to wants to sell right now, and that’s not exactly what we were thinking about because we’d like to stay for a while.

Patrick Cull: But uh but if there was going to be a development here…

Barbara Hobot: It really changes the way that we enjoy May Place, right?

Patrick Cull: Yeah it would change everything

Phi Doan: Well yeah, you’re kind of like the last standing house in a park –  a parking lot in a way.

Barbara Hobot: Yep

Patrick Cull: Yeah, it might not be quite that dire…

[Barb laughs]

Patrick Cull: …but certainly there’d be a lot of shade from, probably, a tall building and of course the heart of the community the garden…

Barbara Hobot: Yeah.

Patrick Cull: …would be gone.

Phi Doan: Yeah, so you were mentioning about your plans. What did you guys have in mind before they even approached you about this?

Barbara Hobot: Yeah, we were thinking to stay here and if anything, build out a little bit because you know we’ve got a young family and the house is small, and we thought oh

Patrick Cull: And this is an amazing area, right.

Barbara Hobot: It’s an amazing area.

Patrick Cull: This is right downtown. This is where everything happens – walking distance to the KWAG

Barbara Hobot: We love the KWAG.

Patrick Cull: The schools are great. The market…

Barbara Hobot: The market, LRT

Patrick Cull: …literally a stone’s throw away.

Phi Doan: I wasn’t expecting them to be able to tell me much about what was going on behind the scenes of the sale, but turns out they didn’t have any issues pulling back the curtains. It’s not great news depending on where you stand, but there has been interests. Lots of it.

Patrick Cull:  There have been dozens and dozens of developers, you know, speaking to the realtor and everyone’s trying to figure out what can happen here. And if – until people have a clear idea, you know, what is the development potential here, people are a little bit cool, but once that’s a little bit – that picture is clear, then there’ll be – the developers will be ready to say yes or no.

Phi Doan: Yeah well, it makes a lot of sense. We’re in the middle of election right now so probably have to figure out what the rules are going to be with new governments.

Barbara Hobot: Yeah, there’s a lot a lot in flux, right.

CBC NEWS: And now we are ready to bring you some more news right now our CBC News decision desk ready to make another call tonight. Your next government will be a liberal minority government. Justin Trudeau as we already told you will hang on as prime minister tonight. The liberals remain in government…

Phi Doan: Not the majority that the Liberals were banking on, but it does at least give developers some idea of what to expect when dealing with the feds. So where does this leave us now? The Region of Waterloo announced a new equity-based rent assistance program. They hope to support around 200 Black, Indigenous, racialized and marginalized families in 2022.

The Liberal housing policy looks to get 1.4 million Canadians into a new home in the next four years. Or at least that’s the hope. Critics have argued that policy fails to introduce enough new development to meet the demand. Also, the liberals will still require the help from another party to pass their bills.

And in October the Kitchen Waterloo Community Foundation released their report on housing and it’s looking bleak. According to the lead author of the report Waterloo Region has been losing just over 1,000 affordable rental units per year in the last five years.

Following my last interview, Tamara told me that she’s been in contact with a land trust based in Toronto. I had the chance to sit in on the meeting.

Tamara Lauren: What was the status of the group at the time? So, you incorporated…

Chiyi Tam: You just need three people. You can incorporate now if you wanted to. It takes like one form and you’re done

Phi Doan: That’s Chiyi Tam, the development manager for Kensington Market Community Land Trust.

Chiyi Tam: All those, like, business tools and stuff like that, we already have templates for. We owe it to the center because we promise that that’s what we would produce from their grant that they gave us.

[Laughing]

Tamara Lauren: Okay that’s awesome.

Chiyi Tam: And it’s meant to be shared exactly in this context for another CLT that wants to get going just to, like, know what’s even involved, um yeah

Tamara Lauren:  Okay well that’s amazing. Yeah, I really look forward to reading that.

Chiyi Tam: Yay

Tamara Lauren:  Yeah, thanks so much for your time. I’m sure you will you will definitely be hearing from me again.

Chiyi Tam: I’m excited to follow this story.

Phi Doan: The land trust is very much a hail Mary proposition, but for Tamara and Katie it’s worth a try. If they fail they’re right back to where they were before. Facing an ever increasingly expensive housing market. But if they succeed, they and others at May Place will get to keep their homes and pave the way for others looking to fight back against developers.

While Katie and Tamara start playing their next steps, we’re going to be keeping an eye on their progress. Will they get to keep their homes or will there be a new condo named the May Place in the future? Only time will tell. This has been an insideWaterloo production.

Written recorded and edited by myself Phi Doan. Music provided by Deep Music Everyday, Auronegro No Copyright x Vlog Music, Toby Lane and Julius H.

This is our first outing with a new style of storytelling, so let us know what you think about our first podcast and what you would like to see covered this way in the future.

One of my favorite conversations actually occurred over the course of this story and I couldn’t find a place to put it in the podcast itself, so I thought I added to the very end and share with you guys. For context, I’m talking with Gage, one of the residents, about the topic of condo-naming conventions.

Phi Doan: Did you hear about the building on Scott and what it’s called?

Gage: What’s it called?

Phi Doan: You could be living at “The Scott.”

Gage: That’s actually very funny. I mean, like, it’s terrible for the people that are living there, but like what a terrible name that they thought that that would work. The Scott. He sounds like a weird – like a weird little white guy. The Scott. You could be living over here **** you man. **** you, that’s a terrible name.

Phi Doan: Special apologies to anyone named Scott listening to this. Our website is insideWaterloo.ca for more stories and articles about what matters to you in the region. For insideWaterloo I’m Phi Doan. Thanks for listening.