Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Affordable housing, transit in play here

Katz critic faces two challengers to 12-year reign

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It's part of the urban core, at the epicentre of a housing crunch, and in the crosshairs of a rapid transit debate.

Lack of affordable housing, crime and transportation are key issues in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, where some residents worry the hot housing market will push out an entire demographic of residents that gives the area its unique blend of students, seniors, professionals and families.

"The people who work here aren't going to be able to live here," said Chris Procaylo, who found out two weeks ago that his rental suite at 1 Roslyn Rd. will soon hit the market as a condo. "You're forcing out an entire demographic."

The left-leaning ward has been held for 12 years by incumbent Jenny Gerbasi, who succeeded Glen Murray in 1998. This time around, the vocal opponent of Mayor Sam Katz is pitted against Ian Rabb, the general manager of Winpark Dorchester Properties.

Also running is Shane Nestruck, a bicycle activist who sought the NDP nomination in Fort Rouge in the 2006 provincial election.

Gerbasi is fending off challengers by focusing on downtown revitalization and neighbourhood renewal, reiterating her commitment to recreational facilities, parks, community safety and better transportation.

Rabb calls himself a socially conscious fiscal conservative who hopes to unseat her by concentrating on residents' concerns about area crime, traffic problems and business development. His blue campaign signs adorn all of Winpark Dorchester's properties in the neighbourhood.

Gerbasi said she would like to see city council take action on the lack of affordable accommodation so there's some form of control over how many rental units can be converted into condos and more investment in innovative housing programs.

She said completing a bus rapid transit line that extends to the University of Manitoba is critical, and that the flip-flops over the issue have led to higher costs and repeated delays.

"It's a real shame to start something and stop it at Jubilee (Avenue)," Gerbasi said. "It's just going to keep costing us more."

Rabb said the area has lost much of its affordable housing, though he said it's more a provincial issue and there's no immediate solution. He said he's focused on increasing the police presence in the area by finding ways to help them process paperwork, for example, and ensuring that any new developments meet the needs of seniors and families who live nearby.

Nestruck favours light rail instead of bus rapid transit, saying bus rapid transit lines will be more expensive to maintain and a less environmentally friendly option in the long run. He called urban sprawl the "cancer" of a city, adding he supports "Vancouverism," which blends infill housing such as condo developments with social and low-income units.

Nestruck thinks tenants shouldn't be evicted from a rental unit if they can't afford to purchase a condo, and said developers should offer them a rental unit at a comparable alternative location.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2010 B2

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