Fact: Far more people need an affordable place to live than there are available options.
- 22,500. That’s how many social housing units there are in Ottawa.
- 12,000. That’s how many households are waiting for one of those units at any given time.
- 5+. That’s how many years an applicant can wait to get an offer of subsidized housing.
Fact: The supply of subsidized housing is not keeping up with the number of people who need it.
- 40,000. That’s how many new affordable housing units would have to be built to house every renter who currently needs affordable housing in Ottawa, says the City.
The Registry works hard to address the affordable housing crisis while supporting people in need.
This crisis isn’t new. And elected leaders and City staff are well aware of it.
In 2013, the City of Ottawa launched its 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan.
In 2020, Ottawa became the first city in Canada to declare a housing and homelessness emergency. The vote by city council was unanimous.
There are two main factors behind the housing crisis:
- Number of homes
- How much they cost
So, should we just build more?
As of 2021, homes were being built in Ottawa at the highest rate seen since the 1970s. But our population grows faster than that building rate. (CMHC Report, 2022)
More housing addresses only one part of the problem, says Steve Pomeroy, affordable housing expert and board member of the Ottawa Community Land Trust, a partner of The Registry.
Simply building more homes does not help the average person or family’s ability to buy or rent one, he says.
Fact: Too many people face a combination of rising housing costs, frozen incomes or income insecurity, and budgeting challenges. The increasing cost of home ownership means more and more people in Ottawa and across Canada are renting. And rents are going up everywhere.
Ottawa is quickly becoming unaffordable for many people, says a 2019 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The report says Ottawa’s average rental rate is the fifth highest in the country, behind Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, and Calgary.
Based on CCPA calculations, as of 2019:
- you have to work 75 hours a week at Ontario’s $14/hour minimum wage to afford an average two-bedroom = $1,301/month
- you have to work full-time (40 hours a week) at $26/hour to afford $1,301/month rent
- you have to work 61 hours a week at minimum wage to afford an average one-bedroom rental in Ottawa
We can and must do better to ensure everyone in Ottawa has a safe and affordable home.
But this problem is everywhere.
Finding an affordable place to live is a challenge for too many across Canada right now.
Any of us can find ourselves struggling with housing costs, regardless of income or background: from big families to individuals. Young adults looking for their first place. Seniors needing to downsize. Working people trying to make ends meet. Newcomers seeking stability. Vulnerable folks who need safety.
The need for housing affordability is not new. But as the 2020s began, a global pandemic exposed the dire state of housing across Canada.
As inflation and rising costs of living were squeezing everyone’s wallets in 2022, severe supply chain delays stalled important affordable housing projects.
And the problem persists.
What will it Take?
While many people say cities should take more concrete, immediate action on affordable housing, others say the federal government should provide relief.
Both are right.
In 2021, the City of Ottawa approved a spending plan “to create another 295 units of affordable housing, including 174 supportive units. The plan will see available funds invested with housing providers, increasing the total number of units in development across Ottawa to 1,730”.
Also in 2021, the federal government launched its Rapid Housing Initiative: a $2.5 billion program under the National Housing Strategy (see below) to “help address the urgent housing needs of vulnerable Canadians, especially in the context of COVID-19, through the rapid construction of over 10,000 units of affordable housing.”
Through the Rapid Housing Initiative, Ottawa will get $22.4 million for three projects that will create an estimated 66 new affordable homes here.
These are positive developments. Every single step toward closing the gap between the number of units needed to house the number of people awaiting affordable housing is important.
But the housing crisis is caused by many complex issues. To really solve the problem, we need strategic, coordinated plans to address all the complex issues.
Most people want various levels governments to work together to solve our country’s housing crisis through both policy and funding.
Introduced in 2017, Canada’s National Housing Strategy (NHS) has a 10-year goal of removing 530,000 families from housing need, creating 160,000 new affordable homes, and cutting chronic homelessness by 50%.
In addition to investing billions in the creation of new housing in towns and cities across Canada, the NHS has federal and provincial/territorial governments working together with Indigenous leaders or groups to modernize existing housing, support community housing providers, and advance research and data on housing.
People who work and live in affordable housing helped shape the NHS through a consultation process.
Same with Ottawa’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan: it was developed through consultation with stakeholders and the community.
When first launched in 2014, the Plan set out to achieve the following outcomes by 2024:
- Everyone has access to safe, temporary shelter.
- There is no chronic homelessness.
- No one stays in an emergency shelter for more than 30 days.
- Community and affordable housing are in a state of good repair.
- New development increases access to suitable and affordable housing.
- Residents receive financial support to help make housing affordable.
- People get the supports they need to find and keep housing.
A review of the Plan in 2018 showed just how much progress was yet to be made on key goals.
So, the City revised the Plan for 2020-2030 to address changes and challenges across the Housing Continuum.
With input from groups such as Ottawa Social Housing Network, including The Registry, the new plan prioritizes increasing the number of units of affordable and supportive housing. It also addresses housing subsidies and the requirement for support services in the city.
While the Plan calls for major investments from all levels of government to improve our local situation, it also recognizes that municipal governments are key to ensuring everyone has a safe and affordable home.
From zoning to planning to permitting, municipalities can make housing projects happen. They also run programs and projects aimed at supporting the wellness and safety of residents and communities.
The Registry and our members and partners will continue to call for smart, strategic, and sustainable solutions to the housing crisis.
Elected people need to hear from all of us about making housing affordability a priority.
Call or email your City Councillor and ask these questions:
- Do you know it can take 5+ years for applicants to get subsidized housing in Ottawa?
- Do you know Ottawa needs 40,000 new units to house everyone who currently needs affordable housing here?
- What steps are you taking to fix the affordable housing crisis in Ottawa?
Find your ward and city councillor here.