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Owners found to have violated temporary city by-law with Glebe development

Photo by Tina Wallace

Students from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University were removed from their apartment after the owners of the building were found to have illegally converted the property into multiple rental units.

Extra walls were set up on both sides of the semi-detached house at 95 Fourth Ave. in the Glebe to create extra rooms for rent. This sort of construction violates temporary city by-laws that were put in place April 23 to ban new conversions of single-family houses into multiple apartments to accommodate students in neighbourhoods around the U of O and Carleton.

The conversion is the work of Black Iris Developments, one of Ottawa’s most prolific converters of houses to apartments. Black Iris angered neighbours earlier this year with a project at 167 Aylmer Ave. that turned one single-family home into a 16-bedroom apartment.

Both 167 Aylmer Ave. and 95 Fourth Ave. fall under the ward of City Councillor David Chernushenko. In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Chernushenko said several students were victims in the battle over these home conversions.

“Sadly, the only people who really paid the price for it were the tenants,” Chernushenko said. “These students, who finally found a room to live in—illegal and unsafe, unconforming—then got kicked out.”

It is unknown whether the owners were fined.

Tamer Abaza, a Black Iris developer, defended housing conversions in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen. Abaza is a renowned developer in Ottawa, and despite opposition to conversions, property owners like Abaza insist that conversions are beneficial to the community.

“It provides much-needed housing without completely transforming the community by building a massive tower or towers,” he said. “For example, our product in Sandy Hill is meant for students and young professionals seeking to live in high-end self-contained apartment units, as opposed to rooming houses or rooms in older single-family homes or rundown multi-units.”

Abaza also said he has been buying and converting properties for “many years”, and he tries to make conversions with the “most sense from a practical, financial, zoning, and community perspective.”

The evicted students were unavailable for comment.

“A lot of (residents) understand that the areas we pick are zoned for what we do, but all change is difficult and there are sometimes growing pains,” Abaza said. “We try (to) address any and all reasonable concerns there are.”