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He Agreed to Sell His Home to Save Old Tree. Now, a Snag

Toronto is taking homeowner to court
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2021 12:48 PM CDT

(Newser) – Toronto's fight to save a majestic tree older than Canada has been stalled by the city's rising property prices. The red oak that stands in the backyard of a home in the city is believed to be 250 to 300 years old, and the city plans to demolish the home and build a parkette around the tree. With the help of a fundraising campaign, the city signed a deal with homeowner Ali Simaga in December 2019 to purchase the home for $620,000, but he now says he wants more money, the CBC reports. Simaga, who says the home is now worth around $100,000 more, is refusing to go ahead with the sale; Toronto has asked a court to declare the purchase complete.

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"I'm afraid I'm going to be homeless with my family with this price," Simaga tells the CBC in reference to the city's rising property values, though he admits that he already owns another home and rents out the residence with the red oak. After buying the house for $414,000 in 2015, Simaga said he couldn't afford to maintain the tree and expressed concern about roots damaging the home's foundations. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice will hear the case in October. The 79-foot tree, one of the oldest in Toronto, is on a former trail used centuries ago by Indigenous peoples and French fur traders. Local resident Edith George, who has campaigned to protect the tree for 15 years, describes it as the "Rolls Royce of heritage trees." "No other tree in Canada has the heritage value that this tree has," she told AFP last year. (Read more Toronto stories.)

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