Neighbourhood #StartsWithHome


Ottawa is home to some incredible neighbourhoods, with engaged community associations, highly prized small businesses and large-scale enterprises, unique artists, and beautiful architecture. Ottawa is also a place with a housing and homelessness emergency. As lack of affordability drives displacement, we are noting the loss of the people who make these neighbourhoods, businesses, and local sites special.

Without affordable housing, none of the critical elements that enliven our neighbourhoods and make our city liveable can be protected sustainably. As Michael Crockatt, President and CEO of Ottawa Tourism, says "Solving Ottawa’s housing and homelessness crisis should be on everyone's radar because it would have direct positive impacts throughout our community, impacting every organization with a mandate for social, economic, or environmental benefits.More affordable housing means more resilient, sustainable, beautiful, collaborative, supportive, and celebrated neighbourhoods.

Affordable Housing = Resilient Neighbourhoods 

There are barriers, systemic and social, to realizing unanimous support for affordable housing development at the neighbourhood level. We have witnessed in Ottawa, over the last several decades, many instances of what is referred to as NIMBYism. The "Not in my back yard" mindset that has communities believing that they must protect the safety, integrity, and vibrancy of their neighbourhoods by condemning supportive and affordable social housing development in their neighbourhoods. But what has become increasingly clear, is that by rejecting housing development that supports and provides equitable access to those in need, we diminish a neighbourhood's resilience.

As Michelle Groulx, the President and CEO of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas (OCOBIA), has remarked, "With a lack of affordable housing, we are struggling to staff small businesses in our neighbourhoods. For communities and small businesses to thrive, we need neighbourhoods with housing that is affordable for workers and their families." Without this essential piece, the prized sites and activities that make our neighbourhoods beloved will struggle. This is why the Starts With Home coalition insists that housing affordability impacts all of us. Because it does.


Affordable Housing = Sustainable & Beautiful Neighbourhoods

Saying yes to affordable housing (YIMBY! = Yes In My Backyard!) doesn’t have to mean agreeing to a loss of neighbourhood aesthetic. Quite the opposite. What we sometimes forget, or may not know, is that the leaders in affordable housing design are also leaders, by necessity, in sustainable design, which also happens to be beautiful! And so much more. Read this blog entry by local architect and urban planner, Toon Dreessen of DCA Architects, to hear more about the reasons he supports the Starts With Home campaign.

Saying yes to affordable housing doesn’t have to mean a loss of your neighbourhood’s character. Communities evolve with time and become something different over years of patient evolution. If they don’t, they stagnate, preserved as a snapshot of something that was and will never be again. Being a YIMBY is the first step in creating the city we aspire to be.“

How we do this, he says, requires the use of beautiful, sustainable, and quality materials, creative design that matches the vibrancy of the neighbourhood, and a purpose that engages local organizations, agencies, and businesses as willing stakeholders. Good design considers the neighbourhood, involves the neighbourhood, and integrates the new buildings and its residents into the ever-evolving story of that neighbourhood.

Affordable Housing = Collaborative & Supportive Neighbourhoods

Alliance member, PAL Ottawa, understands this. As a non-profit, charitable organization providing aging artists in the city with affordable housing and personal care services, PAL Ottawa recognizes that in order for communities to thrive, our arts workers need to be right there in the mix--providing insight, leadership, mentorship, and neighbourhood 'flair'. However, without scaled affordable housing options, and with many aging artists making an average income of 17K annually, the prospect of remaining in the cultural hub becomes untenable. Intentional support and design is needed.

That's why, in partnership with other organizations, businesses, foundations, private sponsors, and local government, PAL Ottawa is piloting a unique rental housing model, with an Affordable Home Fund that will allow artists in need of deeply affordable housing to remain securely in their homes for the long term, regardless of their fluctuating, annual income level. Ottawa Community Housing and Hobin Architecture (who have also endorsed Starts With Home) have partnered with PAL Ottawa to design and build a forever home for artists that is beautiful, sustainable, and a center of creativity for the neighbourhood.

The Corso Italia District is already “a place where arts, cultural, and creative industries have organically grown to be a defining element of the area’s identity”, according to the City of Ottawa, who has played a critical role in the realization and funding of the Rochester Heights development, where PAL Place is being built. It makes sense, on a neighbourhood level, for PAL to take up residence there.

This is a model example of collaborative design and financial innovation, pushing the boundaries of what is possible at a policy level, through acquisition and zoning, and into what is possible when sectors collaborate as equal stakeholders.

Affordable Housing = Celebrated Citizens

Ultimately, the conversation around why we can and should collaboratively build affordable housing that is sustainable, beautiful, integrated, and accessible, comes back to honoring the dignity and basic human rights of the people who live in our city. Extending to everyone the assurance that the neighbourhood you live in supports your presence and celebrates your contribution by ensuring you always have a place to land.

Juno award-winning singer-songwriter Lynn Miles has lived in Ottawa most of her career. But as is often the case with artists, making ends meet can be difficult, no matter your level of success. In her song, A Thousand Times Deeper, she writes eloquently about privilege and its connection to poverty, and how without intentionally ‘seeing’ your neighbours and sharing the work of inclusion, basic needs will continue to be unmet. “The trickle-down economy never trickled down anything on me.” We can do better. Our neighbours and neighbourhoods depend on it.

A thousand times deeper
Lynn Miles 2021

it seems like everybody’s drinking
shopping at COSTCO
almost every day
luxury condos
growing like weed
the heart of a city is
a study in greed

marble and glass
scraping the sky
people sleeping on the sidewalk
others walk by
I’ll never own a house
don’t have a million bucks
lots of lottery tickets,
still no luck

rich are getting richer
like they always do
wealthy politicians
pretend to care about you
make you promises
until they win the night
then its the status quo
out of mind and
out of sight

they’ll inherit their future
from the family estate
they never have to worry
that the bills are late
they’ll never wait for an hour
for the bus in the snow
with their groceries and their laundry
and their kids in tow.

when you’re born into this world
it’s all a crapshoot
right time right place
you get all the loot
if you’re poor
the climb up is
a hundred times
and the hole you’re digging out of
is a thousand times deeper

I’m living in a basement
on cold cement
3 part time jobs
I can’t afford the rent
if I get sick
that’s all she wrote
i’ll take care of it myself
won’t leave a note

where do you go
when there’s nowhere to go
what do you do
when there’s nothing you can do
go ahead and look away
never learn my name
but underneath it all
we’re all the same

everybody’s got pain
everybody’s got a story
some are living in heaven
some in purgatory
some people never have a chance
to find their way
when the profit margin
is the order of the day

that trickle down
never trickled down
anything on me
except worry and depression and
minimum wage
anxiety and fear and a bubbling rage

Latest posts

Deputation at Community Services Committee
Budget 2024

Hear our Executive Director Kaite Burkholder Harris share long-term solutions to Ottawa's housing crisis at the Community Services Committee.

Tuesday, Nov 28th - Community Services Committee - Budget 2024

 Good Morning Chair and Members of the Committee,

Over the course of the past year, as the City faces the full impact of a housing crisis out of control, I want to start by pointing to actions that are working. In June, this Council approved an Integrated Transition to Housing Plan that City staff built with community partners. The result in the short term is an enhanced rent subsidy with greater flexibility, enabling people who have been stuck in homelessness to rapidly move out of the PDC’s. By allocating resources towards flexible subsidies like this, we enable people to secure stable housing.

Ending Homelessness Starts With Non-Profit Housing

By: Sophia Kelly-Langer

Take a moment to picture a person experiencing a housing crisis. What does it look like? For some, it looks like sitting out in the cold, hoping that the shelter is not full, so they can actually get in that night. For others, it looks like a family struggling to make the rent after a lay-off. It may look like a senior on a fixed income unable to downsize in their neighbourhood because there are no affordable options.


In the most extreme cases, a housing crisis looks like people living in encampments, some directly in front of Parliament Hill. These have become the only shelter options for some, including children and youth under bridges. The jarring contrast of the most vulnerable going without the basic need of housing just feet away from our country’s decision-makers is not lost on the people living in an encampment.

Increase Investment in Non-Profit Housing: Deputation to the Planning & Housing Committee, February 15th 2023

The fallout from the housing crisis means that as a city, we spend $30 million on emergency shelter costs every year. People experiencing homelessness engaging with police costs roughly $25M every year in Ottawa. We spend over $15 million a year on keeping people in hotels, because there is not enough affordable housing. Ending the housing crisis in our city means that we invest at least as much in solutions, as we do managing the crisis.

In order to make our city affordable, the smartest capital investment we can make is in non-profit housing.

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