January 21, 2016

Include Affordable Housing in Land Redevelopment

This Canadian Pacific photo shows the Angus Shops just after the Second World War. Source: Canadian Pacific Archives

A typical street in the redeveloped Angus Shops area. Source: CMHC

Lower land purchase prices. Existing infrastructure. Higher density. Factors such as these make it attractive to redevelop industrial land – and include affordable housing in the redevelopment. In Montréal, the Angus project shows how former train yards were transformed into a large-scale, mixed-income, ethnically diverse residential project.

A tale of two redevelopments — Montreal’s Angus site

For almost 70 years, Angus Shops was the major industrial complex in Montréal for maintaining Canadian Pacific Railway trains and locomotives. When the maintenance shops closed, CPR planned to commercially develop 40 hectares (100 acres) but the proposal was hotly contested. Eventually, the municipal administration zoned the site strictly residential and from 1984 to 1993 the site was redeveloped to include a mix of social and market housing.

This was the first of two major transformations on the old CPR railway site. In the second phase in the early 1990s, the long planning process for the development of the remaining 50 hectares (125 acres) began in earnest. It was a very different process than the earlier one, with the players’ roles and priorities having changed, new players making their voices heard, and a different economic and fiscal environment being in place.

The outcome was a development that did not focus on affordable housing but was instead 40% market residential, 40% industrial and 20% commercial (and, unlike in the earlier redevelopment, included the retention of some Angus Shops heritage features).

Summary of the impact on housing affordability:

  • The Angus redevelopment project provided housing opportunities for close to 2,600 households, of which approximately 40% had low or moderate incomes, in a well-serviced, central location in Montréal, on a former industrial site.
  • The Angus project successfully redeveloped a contaminated industrial site no longer needed as rail yards. The non-profit corporation formed to own and sell the land to social and market housing developers ensured that the land was decontaminated.
  • The Angus project still provides affordable housing for workers employed in the core area of Montréal.
  • The housing and occupants were integrated into the surrounding neighbourhood, thereby using the existing infrastructure, schools and other community facilities.

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