Housing and Homelessness Emergency

350 families. Average stay of 123 days. 700 children. And a waitlist of 12,000 people.

How is this not an emergency?

At council today my colleagues Coun. Catherine McKenney, seconded by Coun. Rawlson King, brought forward a motion stating Ottawa officially declare an Affordable Housing and Homelessness Emergency acknowledging that the City of Ottawa does not possess the resources to manage this crisis alone.

After a friendly amendment to add the word “crisis” – that the city declare an Affordable Housing and Homelessness Crisis and Emergency – was added, and I am pleased to say, was supported by a majority of council members.

This motion does two things – it recognizes there is an urgent need to make a difference and it also gives this council another tool to help take this important conversation to both the Federal and Provincial governments.

It’s important that all levels of government come together to address this crisis – our City needs an immediate increase in emergency funding for affordable housing, housing supports, and housing allowances, as well as a long-term financial plan to meet the needs of the community.

Housing is important to us all. It should be a right not a privilege.

The motion proposed by Coun. McKenney acknowledges that Ottawa, although not alone in this battle, is indeed in trouble at reaching its own set targets to reduce homelessness.  Shelters and motels are full, and the waiting list for affordable housing is at a record high and vacancy is at an all-time low.

The City’s 10-year housing plan – A Home for Everyone – was approved by council in 2013.

On Jan. 1 2014 when the plan was implemented. At this time there were 10,000 people waiting for permanent homes.

The plan has three goals- everyone has a home; people receive the support they need, and we work together to ensure there is more overall efficiency within the housing system. It is clearly not effective.  We need to rethink and shift the conversation to see 1,000’s of affordable units built in Ottawa every year. Our current standard of requests for proposals of only hundreds of units a year simply isn’t bringing a real solution.

Now, in 2020, there are 12,000 people waiting.

2024 is only around the corner – and without declaring a crisis and emergency highlights just how dire this situation has become.

What will make us move forward? What will allow us to make a difference?

I challenge us all to understand the 10 year plan – it can’t just be an aspiration – it must have clear and bold goals for number of new affordable homes built to address a growing waitlist; it must leverage city investments thoughtfully; and it must enact policies that incentivize both social housing providers and private developers to build affordable housing, every year. As the chair of Ottawa Community Housing, I believe there are bold and innovative ways to increase affordable housing in our City.  OCH has proven itself as a leader in leveraging development opportunities to serve tenants better.

I want to thank my colleagues for moving this motion,

The city cannot by the only one advancing this issue – I urge you to not only look at the tip of the iceberg but the whole piece – there are people waiting.

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