After years of promises from various governments, construction could soon begin on the site of the old Hippodrome raceway in the Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
The City of Montreal announced Monday a call for proposals to build hundreds of affordable housing units on the former racetrack, also known as Blue Bonnets. It has been closed since 2009.
“We are therefore calling all non-profit organizations active in housing to prepare their proposals,” Benoit Dorais, the city’s executive committee vice-president, told reporters at a news conference.
The lot is at the intersection of Clanranald Avenue and Jean-Talon Street. It’s the first part of the property to be developed and the city insists all the units in this first phase will be affordable.
“For this project, it’s a bit more than 200 (units),” borough mayor Gracia Kasoki Katahwa explained.
The plan, according to the city, is to make the development carbon neutral with a focus on pedestrians.
Focus will also be on accessibility to mass transit, all of it zero emission. The distance to the Namur Metro station is about five minutes away by foot.
“There will be no private parking or on-street parking,” said Robert Beaudry, the executive committee member responsible for urban planning.
Monday’s announcement comes as a relief to housing groups that have been pushing for years to have social and affordable housing built on the old Blue Bonnets track.
In 2013, former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay promised to include social housing as part of development of the site.
Dorais said of the current Valérie Plante administration, “we are planning 6,000 units, the majority of which will be dedicated to social and affordable housing.”
Housing advocates say as exciting as Monday’s announcement is, they’re only cautiously optimistic.
“We’ve also seen pieces of land in the neighbourhood that are set aside for social housing, go on and on and be stalled and not developed,” said Darby MacDonald of Project Genesis, a housing rights group.
She pointed to the site at 2520 Bates Rd. as an example. In 2021, the city announced plans to build social housing on the site, but it still sits empty.
In a statement, the city blames a lack of funding from the provincial government for the delay to build on Bates Road.
“CDN-NDG and the City are committed to all social housing projects under way,” spokesperson Alicia Dufour wrote. “However, available government funding from the AccèsLogis program is not enough to cover current construction costs for many of these projects. This is why, in the context of the upcoming provincial election, we believe it is important that the next Quebec government commit to properly funding social and affordable housing projects.”
Officials at the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), another housing rights group, say it is glad the first lot at the old Hippodrome racetrack is being offered to non-profit organizations.
According to FRAPRU community organizer Catherine Lussier, however, “the site should 100 per cent be reserved for social housing projects. Côte-des-Neiges is one of the Montreal neighbourhoods where tenants are the poorest and live in the worst conditions.”
Construction at the former racetrack is scheduled to begin in 2025.
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