Fleury: The City of Ottawa will focus on affordable, affordable housing

Our priorities are backwards: We are building new units too slowly, while at the same time increasing the cost of shelters.

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As a city, Ottawa needs a culture change. We must stop dealing with crises and move forward in preventing homelessness.

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13,000: This is the number of people on Ottawa’s waiting list for affordable housing. And 2,000: This is the number of homeless residents who use emergency shelters. The rest simply require affordability in their current home. These figures do not include women fleeing violence, who are staying in shelters for violence against women, for which there is little clear data.

On March 10, the Ottawa Council stamped a work plan and a long-term financial plan prioritizing increased spending on emergency shelters; more money for “transitional housing”; and not enough money dedicated to capital investments for new affordable housing.

Sixteen votes in favor and seven votes against – including my vote in opposition.

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What seems lost in this plan is the people. Public investment must 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; prioritization of transitional homes over permanent housing; and increased costs of emergency accommodation.

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

Investing $ 14.6 million a year in new affordable housing units falls short. We must be brave in our investment plans. Last year, the city spent close to $ 38 million on shelters and motels. It’s time to match these expenses in annual capital investments.

By investing in capital projects, we pay for the operational pressure.

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As highlighted by various delegations in the committee, emergency home providers are turning to operating permanent and affordable support housing. The city plan should speed up this shift and should stop putting more money into an old model.

Another term often used during the committee debate was “transition” – especially when talking about transitional housing for families and women. “ Transitional housing ”is a euphemism for emergency accommodation. As explained in selection of Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa , the city could spend about $ 3 million a year on municipal rent subsidies to help 350 to 400 families afford permanent housing, instead of $ 12 million to $ 14 million in annual family living expenses. The Council chose the latter.

We are at a point where shelters are no longer used only for emergencies. We need to remove this “transition” and ensure that residents have a permanent home.

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

Mathieu Fleury is a City Councilor for the Rideau-Vanier Department and Chairman of the Ottawa Community Housing Board.

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