In the lead up to voting day, it is clear that the issue of housing affordability and homelessness is top of mind for voters and candidates.
OTTAWA, ON October 19th 2022 - In January 2020, Ottawa City Council declared a housing and homelessness emergency. According to the 2021 census, Ottawa has over 55,000 households in core housing need - living in housing that is unaffordable, overcrowded or in poor repair. As alarming as this figure is, it is an underestimation because the census doesn’t include another 50,000 individuals who are experiencing homelessness or hidden homelessness - couch surfing, staying with friends or staying in unsafe housing. More than two years later, Ottawa still has a housing and homelessness emergency.
The Starts With Home platform has received full or partial endorsement from the two front runner mayoral candidates, Catherine McKenney and Mark Sutcliffe, and has been endorsed by at least one candidate in every ward across Ottawa - rural, suburban and urban. It has been endorsed by 159 organizations spanning sectors including shelters and homelessness service providers, housing providers, architects and development consultants, community associations and Business Improvement Areas, community health and resource centres and hospitals, school boards and faith organizations, arts and culture organizations and the Board of Trade and tourism sector.
The platform was developed by a coalition of housing experts and has three key areas - stop the loss, create more, and improve the quality of low-cost housing – backed up by six actions that could be taken by the City of Ottawa over its next term:
- Strengthen Tenant Protections
- Create an Acquisitions Strategy
- Develop an Inclusionary Zoning Policy
- Create 1,000 new homes a year, including 30% For Indigenous, By Indigenous
- License Landlords
- Assign a Housing Ombudsperson
“Every night in Ottawa, almost 2000 people sleep in shelters, including over 300 families. All across our city, the lack of affordable and suitable housing has impacts on people’s health, education, employment and community connection,” said Meg McCallum, Interim Executive Director of the Alliance. “We need to treat this as the emergency that it is. The good news is that we can do better. The system we have is the system we created. And we can make changes to that system. The Starts With Home platform gives Ottawa City Council the tools it needs to prevent, reduce and ultimately end homelessness.”
Starts With Home is an Ottawa-based non-partisan campaign building public and political support for affordable housing. Read the Starts With Home platform here: www.startswithhome.ca/platform
Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa is a coalition of organizations working together to end homelessness in the National Capital of Canada, and the lead organization behind Starts With Home. The mayoral housing debate organizing committee included ACORN Ottawa, Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa, CAFES, CCOC, Ottawa Food Bank and a network of 108 organizations, Ottawa Social Housing Network and the Parkdale Food Centre.
On October 13th, the Starts With Home coalition recorded a Mayoral Housing Debate with Catherine McKenney, Mark Sutcliffe and Nour Kadri. Voters can watch the debate to see for themselves where the front-running mayoral candidates stand on the issue of housing affordability.
Quotes from the debate:
Mark Sutcliffe on strengthening tenant protections: “We need to look at a municipal by-law that will allow for a balanced approach to this issue, that respects everyone. We need to approach it from a number of different angles: protecting tenants and addressing the causes of homelessness.”
Catherine McKenney on creating 1,000 new homes a year, including 30% by Indigenous, for Indigenous: “Ending chronic homelessness is key to reconciliation.”
Nour Kadri on landlord licensing: “A licensing program will level the playing field for everyone. We also need to help small landlords. Standardization works in every domain. Housing affordability is no exception.”
Mark Sutcliffe on creating an acquisition strategy: “We need to work with existing non-profit housing providers to deliver affordable housing. I would not rule out the City acquiring properties.”
Catherine McKenney on inclusionary zoning: “Even with the land we own (e.g. Lansdowne) we have not strengthened the inclusion of affordable housing on that land. It speaks volumes…”
Nour Kadri on assigning a housing ombudsperson: “Responsibility, accountability and ownership. When we hire an ombudsperson, it means we are serious about it, we are owning up to the problems, and we are planning to do something about it.”
Of the 122 candidates surveyed, at least one candidate from every municipal ward has endorsed the Starts With Home platform. Of the mayoral candidates, Catherine McKenney has endorsed the platform and Mark Sutcliffe has endorsed the work of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa. It is clear from the results that whether you live rurally, in the suburbs, or in the centre of the city, access to safe, affordable, suitable and adequate housing is a top election issue. Voters can view the survey results for their ward candidates on the Starts With Home website as they prepare to cast their vote next Monday.
Quotes provided by candidates in their survey answers:
Robert Hill (Ward 7 - Bay) “As the cost of living increases so does the demand for affordable housing and this truly needs to be a focal point for all levels of government. The Starts With Home platform is straight to the point and something that we as a municipal government certainly need to review, discuss and implement as soon as possible.”
Rawlson King (Ward 13 - Rideau-Rockliffe) “I wholeheartedly endorse the "Starts With Home" campaign because the City of Ottawa requires exponential investment in housing geared to both moderate-income and vulnerable communities to address the crisis in housing affordability.”
Tessa Franklin (Ward 1 - Orleans East/Cumberland) “An emergency requires a bold, swift and impactful response. It has been years since this emergency has been declared and we need action from all councillors across Ottawa. Every ward can be a part of the solution. The missing middle housing gap is present in Ottawa and our rural / suburban wards have an amazing opportunity to fill that gap. The Starts With Home platform presents essential action that is long overdue at city hall.”