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Decision on proposal to demolish Kitchener’s Rainbow Row delayed until January

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A group of Kitchener residents held a rally Monday in the hopes of saving their homes, but they’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out council’s decision.

A proposal has been put forward to demolish low-income housing on Benton Street and Saint George Road to make way for a new high-rise condo.

According to the Waterloo Region Acorn Tenant Union, who organized the march ahead of a council committee meeting, residents only learned about the plan in August when a billboard was put in front of their properties.

People living in the townhouses, also known as Rainbow Row due to their brightly coloured facades, are worried they won’t find another affordable place to live if the condo project is approved.

“It wouldn’t be an issue, you know, if it was 2015 and the market was what it was then,” said tenant Shaun McKinnon.

“I was coming from a terrible situation, an apartment infested with both bedbugs and roaches to the brim, and this was the only place that I could find. It’s so much better. If I lose this, I have nowhere else,” tenant Marieal Gaines said.

Residents asked the city to reject the proposal to rezone and redevelop 93-99 Benton St. and 39-43 Saint George St.

“There is strong opposition to this,” said Acer Bonaparte, the chair of Waterloo Region ACORN. “We understand we need to build more housing, but the way to do that isn’t to kick vulnerable people out of their homes and potentially make them homeless.”

After hearing from delegates at Monday night’s Planning and Strategic Initiatives Committee, councillors voted to defer the decision on the matter to Jan. 22 in order to organize a meeting between the developers and current tenants.

Harjit Dhaliwal of Ideal Capital said developers are legally required to cover three months rent if tenants are forced out, but they have offered to pay for an additional fourth month.

"Sometimes we feel that developers are from somewhere else, they're rich people," Dhaliwal told the meeting. "We are trying to create an asset for the city with average people's money. This is actually our first project in this city and we’re are so happy to be investing money."

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