Within 30 days of taking office, I will bring together Ottawa Community Housing, not-for-profit housing providers, homebuilders, building trades, unions, planners, colleagues and universities, citizen groups, other governments, city staff and others to create a detailed strategic plan, with concrete actions and timelines, to break down the barriers to getting the housing we need to be built with no expansion of the urban boundary.
Under my leadership, City Hall will immediately be tasked with streamlining and quickening the approval processes to bust through the political, bureaucratic, and ideological barriers and red tape that prevent housing from being built. We will also examine what incentives and innovations are needed to get housing built, in a way that is thoughtful and respects community design plans. And, we’ll make the community consultation process more transparent, meaningful, timely and effective - including by providing an annual Mayor’s report on meeting these ambitious housing targets.
I will provide the leadership and change needed on housing that helps our city reach its full potential, allows our children and grandchildren to realize the dream of home ownership, and grow into the world class destination we know it can be.
Too many politicians have said they support housing and intensification, only to oppose it when a new project in their ward comes up for approval, particularly in Ottawa’s core. And today, the City of Ottawa has policies and systems in place that make it next to impossible to build all types of housing quickly.
This attitude from our city leaders, and these systems and policies, must change.
Ottawa’s population is growing rapidly, and it is expected to grow by another 500,000 people by 2046. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our city to realize its potential for growth; to build a smart, connected city that we can all take pride in. We will not have a strong economy and we will not recruit and retain talent in our city if housing is unaffordable and inaccessible.
To do it, we must be ambitious. We must say “yes” more often. And we must dispense with the oppositional posture that has dominated the politics of development in our city for so long.
Young people are shut out of home ownership because prices keep going up and there are not enough homes being built to meet demand. Over the past four years, housing prices in Ottawa have increased by more than 60%. Many young people are still living at home with their parents, as they see their dreams of independence and home ownership move further out of reach.
Students have seen rental rates skyrocket and can’t find affordable accommodation. Rents have increased by about 33% over the past four years.
Families are stretched to find homes they can afford, that can accommodate the space they need.
Seniors worry about how they will cover rising rental costs and property taxes on their fixed incomes.
People on low or fixed incomes can’t find accommodation with rent that is geared to their incomes.
Newcomers to Ottawa are having a hard time finding suitable and affordable housing.
Individuals who rely on community housing (including supportive and transitional housing) face long wait lists, and in some cases poor living conditions once they are able to finally access the shelter they need.
Many people who can’t find suitable and affordable housing in Ottawa are moving to Kemptville, Rockland, Almonte, Arnprior or Gatineau, yet they are regular users of infrastructure and services that are paid for by Ottawa taxpayers.
For those looking to access affordable and market rental buildings and new homes, I will:
Establish a one-stop shop and express lane for the planning and approval of new housing and rental properties that today can take more than 4 years of work.
Give the director of housing more authority, reporting directly to the city manager, to break down silos at city hall and facilitate rapid coordination between planning, real estate, finance and other departments to get community and supportive housing built.
Improve the community consultation process to ensure meaningful and timely input from more people across the community, including a seamless digital participation process to gain a full range of views.
Streamline the approval process on minor projects so they can move rapidly and fairly through the system.
For seniors who are worried about the rising cost of housing:
Continue and expand the program that enables seniors to defer a portion of property tax until their home is sold
Work with the federal and provincial governments to reinstate and improve programs that will allow seniors to modify their houses, including for accessibility, energy upgrades and adding secondary suites to help them defer expenses.
For those building market housing, rentals, affordable housing and community housing (including transitional and supportive housing), I will:
Pre-approve zoning in target areas for intensification such as the downtown core, along the LRT, and near LRT stations, following community consultations.
Reduce or eliminate development and other city charges and/or allow limited height exemptions from residential housing projects in areas targeted for intensification and where at least 20 percent of units are affordable for residents.
Waive planning application fees for projects with 40 percent affordable housing.
Eliminate development charges on conversions from office to residential in the downtown core for projects where 20 percent of units are affordable.
Request that the province give the city the power to apply a higher tax rate on lands approved for development inside the greenbelt that are not being developed within the urban boundary.
For those looking to access community housing (including supportive and traditional housing), I will:
Provide relief for application fees and development charges for non-profit housing.
Deploy available city lands and air rights for new housing units (and negotiate for surplus federal lands), especially near transit lines, and transit stations to get community housing built quickly.
Facilitate and accelerate the adoption of the rent-to-own program run through the federal Affordable Housing Innovation Fund.
Adopt a policy to offer housing and supportive services as a first step in helping the vulnerable and homeless to ensure the cycle of mental illness, substance use disorder, and poverty is reduced, thereby reducing demand for shelters and use of hotel rooms.
Change our approach to addressing chronic homelessness to move away from support that is temporary or emergency in nature (such as hotel rooms) to provide suitable transitional and supportive housing. I will work with the provincial and federal governments to obtain more funding to dramatically reduce homelessness in our city.