As a City, we need a culture change. We need to stop managing crises and get ahead in preventing homelessness.

13,000. 

This is the number of people on Ottawa’s waiting list for affordable housing.

And 2,000 – that is the number of those residents who are without a home. Who are using Emergency Shelters. 

The rest simply require affordability in their current homes. 

Those numbers do not include women fleeing violence staying in Violence Against Women shelters, for which there is little clear data. 

On March 10th, City Council rubber stamped a Work Plan and Long Range Financial Plan that prioritized increased emergency shelter spending, more money spent on “transitional housing” and not enough money dedicated to capital investments for new affordable housing. 

16 votes in favour and 7 votes against – including my voice in opposition. 

What seems lost in this plan is the people. Public investments need to be hyper focused on securing and creating affordable and adequate housing.

This investment plan fails in three areas: too few new units built too slowly, prioritizing transitional shelters over permanent homes, and increased spending for Emergency Shelters. 

The City needs to move away from managing a collection of programs and needs to become more focused on outcomes.

Investing $14.6M per year in new affordable housing units falls short.  We must be bold in our investment plans.  Last year the City spent close to $38 million on emergency shelters and motels. It’s time to match this spending in yearly capital investments. 

By investing in capital projects, we pay off operational pressures.

As highlighted by various delegations at Committee, Emergency Shelter providers are pivoting towards operating permanent and affordable supportive housing.  The City’s plan must accelerate this shift and needs to stop putting more money into an old model.

Another term often used during committee debate was “Transition.” Notably when speaking about Transitional Housing for families and women.

Transitional Housing is a euphemism for emergency shelters. As explained at Committee by the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa, the City could spend approximately $3M a year in municipal rent subsidies to help 350-400 families afford permanent housing, rather than the $12-$14M in yearly spending on emergency shelters for families.

We are at a point where shelters are no longer used as an emergency. We must eliminate this “transition” and ensure residents have a permanent home.

Council is making choices. Ottawa’s affordable housing crisis is not due to a lack of resources, but rather a lack of political will.