Trevor Hache's presentation on Affordable Housing in Ottawa
I have lived in Kanata South since 2012. I’m a suburban resident opposed to more sprawl. We should focus on improving existing neighbourhoods, within the current urban boundary.
I’ve participated in the People’s Official Plan for a year. Slide 1 shows community Official Plan priorities, which dozen of organizations and 100 people helped develop during a weekend in November 2019. We want Ottawa to facilitate transit hubs built as community hubs, featuring local food, lots of affordable housing, community kitchens, greenspace, health care, day care, office space. These hubs should be well-connected to surrounding neighbourhoods with excellent pathways, wide sidewalks, safe cycling routes, healthy streets, and electric buses travelling in transit priority lanes on existing roads.
This is a vision of Ottawa the community is fully behind.
This map shows the planned Rapid Transit network from now until 2046. Light Rail in the east, west, south and downtown. Bus Rapid Transit lines in Barrhaven, Kanata, along Baseline, and west into Orleans. Affordable housing should be prioritized all along these rapid transit lines, as should greater population density.
But, achieving density isn’t enough, we demand density done well.
There are local examples that provide inspiration. See the 15-Minute Old Ottawa East Virtual Jane's Walk posted to YouYube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsCaXlhS24k
We must achieve great 15-minute, just, healthy neighbourhoods, in a city that leaves no one behind.
This is what the Grand Allée off Main Street is set to look like, in the Greystone Village development. It will be closed to cars and feature beautiful street trees. This type of linear park should be built on many existing streets in all of Ottawa’s Wards.
We can build beautiful, healthy streets featuring ground level retail, greenery, and dynamic healthy streets that people want to linger on, with affordable apartments in the 4, 5, 6 storeys buildings above.
The developers say if you do not allow more sprawl, Ottawa will have more unimaginative high rises, blotting the landscape. Sure, some high rises will be needed. But there are many more positive examples of density that are worth our focus. Think tiny homes and coach houses in existing backyards that will allow people to age in place.
A fellow Board member of Healthy Transportation Coalition recently wrote a blog post titled More sprawl will worsen our transportation crisis:
“Most people have no problem with… “density done well,” but for years we’ve been told that we must accept all intensification, even if it flouts newly-minted design plans and the needs of the surrounding neighbourhoods, because the alternative is more sprawl.
Now, we’re being told the opposite: that we must accept more damaging sprawl if we want to be saved from harmful intensification.”
Sprawl costs us all. Instead of costly infrastructure (public transit, water, sewer pipes, roads) to places far away, we need a more responsible approach. We need action on the Housing and Homelessness, and Climate Change Emergencies.
The People’s Official Plan is a group of organizations, and individuals across the City from urban, suburban, and rural areas. We demand no more sprawl.
We are genuinely committed to the idea that Ottawa should be the best mid-sized City in North America. But a lot, most, perhaps all of the wind in those sails, and community good will to participate in City Official Plan processes, will be lost if further urban boundary expansion is allowed.
Slide 6 shows an excerpt from the 2013 Hemson report for the City. It clearly shows growth does not pay for growth.
We know Ottawa’s existing financial strains will worsen with more sprawl. COVID-19 is adding to the financial challenges. More sprawl will leave the City with less financial resources needed to build the beautiful city we all deserve.
As David Reevely wrote for the Citizen 11 years ago, in Downtown’s raw deal: what to do? the ongoing repair and maintenance costs of infrastructure being brought to low-density suburban areas is a massive Ponzi scheme, that will continue to a slowly decline toward collapse.
We already see the strain on our 6,000 kilometres of roads, with thousands of potholes. We see the strain on our affordable housing centralized waiting list, where 12,000 households remain. We see the strain in our public transit system, where frequent, reliable transit remains elusive.
I urge Planning Committee members, please, show the leadership we demand. Take the option before you to not expand the urban boundary. If you do, I have faith the professional staff in the City’s Planning, Transportation, Social Services, and Public Health Departments will develop appropriate policies to help us achieve density done well.
More importantly, I have faith in the community to advocate to ensure Ottawa grows in a good and healthy way. It will require diligence from the community, and the proper policies and practices to ensure success, but success is most certainly achievable.
I support Councillor Brockington’s Motion to increase intensification target to 70%.
As many dozens of public delegations will tell you today, not expanding the boundary is the most desirable option. Achieving that comes with challenges. But we can do hard things. Doing hard things is what is required. I urge you, please, rise to this challenge.
Stand with the community, and not the vested interests.
City Council passed a report and recommendations in April 2019 that identified 20 parcels of land, owned mostly by governments, close to rapid transit stations where affordable housing should be built.
Also, the City put out a good Official Plan discussion paper about Housing in 2019 and it talked about the importance of getting Housing and Transportation linked well. And it cited studies showing the high cost of living, that often does not get factored in housing affordability discussions, which is the fact that transportation costs are often significantly higher in suburban areas, where transit doesn’t work extremely well, and households need to own or two vehicles, with all the costs that come with that.
In order to get the link correct, the rapid transit lines need much more attention, both light rail and bus rapid transit. We should be inspired by Barcelona’s super blocks, the great 4-, 5-, 6-storey buildings of Montreal Quebec, and Paris, France, where ground level retail makes a dynamic neighbourhood, with lots of patios, and affordable apartments on the floors above make housing affordable for thousands of people.
To answer your question:
Number 1) Ottawa should pass a strong citywide inclusionary zoning by-law that ensures 25% of new development is dedicated to accessible, affordable housing and places a special emphasis on deeply affordable, accessible housing within 1 km of rapid transit stations;
Number 2) Ensure that all available government-owned land within 1 km of current & future rapid transit stations is used for non-profit and co-op housing (and that the City provide land to the newly established Land Trust in Ottawa specifically for accessible, affordable housing near rapid transit); and
Number 3) The City of Ottawa should commit at least $20 million/year of City funding, over and above federal and provincial grants, to build new accessible, affordable housing near rapid transit stations.
And, I will add a 4th, there is also a lot of potential for tiny homes, and coach houses to gently increase population density, and the housing is affordable. Ottawa should replicate what is being done in Simcoe County, Ontario, where they are providing homeowners with $30,000 forgivable loans for people to build coach houses, secondary suites, tiny homes. This loan becomes forgivable only if those secondary suites, coach houses, tiny homes, are added to the municipalities affordable housing stock list for 15 years. So, in this way, Ottawa could create gentle density increases, in existing neighbourhoods, and an affordable housing unit for the low cost of $30,000.
Expanding the boundary does not lead to more affordable housing being built. In the area of Ottawa I live in, we bought our house in 2012, for about $250,000. There are hundreds perhaps thousands of new homes being built close by to me, and there is no way I could afford any of them. They are all priced well-above $300,000.
With the right policies in place, we can build a lot of social, non-profit, and affordable housing in Ottawa. Sadly, we have not had the political will needed to build that housing at the level it is needed.