Alexandre Street project stokes affordable housing debate

By Gordon Lambie – Local Journalism Initiative
Alexandre Street project stokes affordable housing debate
(Photo : Gordon Lambie)

A YouTube video uploaded last week by real-estate developer Nikolai Ray has been causing a stir in Sherbrooke.
Entitled, “Playing Monopoly in Real Life with 25 million dollars,” the video is a presentation by Ray of his decision to buy a number of buildings and properties on Alexandre Street to simultaneously renovate them in order to guarantee a family-friendly atmosphere on the section closest to Camirand Park. Where the video has been seen as controversial, however, is in the way the developer talks about the current and former residents of the street; describing it as a horrible place filled with criminals, prostitutes, rats and bedbugs.

Although Ray frames his statements in the video with comments about wanting to revitalize the neighbourhood, his focus on making money and his dismissal of the people already living in the area added fuel to an ongoing debate over what ‘cleaning up’ Sherbrooke’s downtown means for people living in situations of poverty.

Mario Mercier, spokesperson for Sherbrooke’s renters’ association said that he considers Ray’s perspective to be a part of a larger societal problem.
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