YIMBYism #StartsWithHome

GUEST BLOG POST

As a city, we can choose to create the city we aspire to be: one that is sustainable, accessible, and welcoming to all; we can choose to create vibrant places that enhance our sense of belonging; we can choose to strive for housing that is affordable, sustainable, beautiful and adapts to our changing needs. Every decision we make is a choice on the path to the city we aspire to be. 

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Ottawa has a housing crisis. Like many municipalities in Canada, we struggle to build enough housing that is affordable to the average family, let alone build enough below-market-rate housing to support those in need. 

NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard -ism) is a barrier to building the homes the people of Ottawa need. Many residents speak in favour of density, but object to it in their own community. This is particularly true when a project is rental or marketed as “affordable” as this comes with a fear that property values will drop as “undesirable” people move into a neighbourhood.

Ottawa has a growing need to build homes that moderately increase density. Brigitte Pellerin noted this in the Ottawa Citizen: the cost of suburban housing is higher when we factor in the cost of commuting, gas, the environment and other factors. It costs less for the city to operate and maintain transit systems, sewers, roads and other essential services for urban residents. And, Ottawa has clear evidence that urban taxpayers subsidize suburban and rural property owners. When we complain about the high cost of taxes, we need to look at the political and planning decisions made on our behalf. 

The challenges of building homes are very real. Developers who shoulder the burden of carrying cost, risk, cost increases, application costs and capital, will tend to choose the path of least resistance. That reduces their risk: why would they go out of their way to build something if they know the application is going to be tied up in years of appeals and planning delays; is going to be opposed by neighbours and elected officials and that the outcomes of planning appeals are uncertain?  Delays, coupled with cost escalations, might mean that they will be out tens of millions of dollars. And poorly thought out political decisions don’t help. 

As Alex Bozikovic wrote in the Globe and Mail, we need say Yes In My Backyard. 

Communities need a range of housing types. Imagine your neighbourhood only has high end luxury apartments: that means there is nowhere for the employees of the local coffee shop or grocery store to live within the community they serve. The lowest income earners must make more to live near their jobs or live further away and spend less time with their families. That can have implications on children, their education, and ability to succeed at school, not to mention their own quality of life. 

People need to be able to live with dignity. Moderate density means creating places that are accessible to all, that are visitable and can adapt over time. Darryl Condon, writing in Canadian Architect, hit the nail on the head.  Just because someone living in a home doesn’t have accessibility needs today, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. 

Creating more moderate density helps get people who need housing off the streets. Instead of a revolving door of shelters or spending thousands of dollars a month on motels, we need to create homes for families that forge the community we need to foster. We need family sized, welcoming, affordable homes to help those most vulnerable. 

Saying yes to affordable housing doesn’t have to mean a loss of your neighborhood’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. 

Creative ideas about affordable housing can come from a variety of sources. Key is hiring the right firms, with fresh ideas on both the design and approach to inclusivity. 

Our communities thrive when they are diverse; when we see and hear different experiences, cultures, and ideas. Integrating new homes in established communities gives them a vibrancy that can enliven established patterns of use. Well-crafted design integrates, sparks new ideas about living; those designs can enhance the existing places, creating new relationships, bringing new people, jobs and uses to our communities. Well-crafted design considers the community, the pattern of living and transit, the use of parks and community spaces to forge and strengthen our collective sense of identity.

As a city, we can choose to create the city we aspire to be: one that is sustainable, accessible, and welcoming to all; we can choose to create vibrant places that enhance our sense of belonging; we can choose to strive for housing that is affordable, sustainable, beautiful and adapts to our changing needs. Every decision we make is a choice on the path to the city we aspire to be. 

Time to choose wisely.

Join the movement. Endorse #StartsWithHome.

Read the next blog post: Neighbourhood #StartsWithHome

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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