Building 100,000 new homes in Ottawa over the next 10 years requires a co-operative effort by builders, residents and the municipality, according to the city’s new mayor.
Mark Sutcliffe outlined his approach to tackling the housing crisis, including the crying need for more affordable housing, at a breakfast meeting this week hosted by the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA). The mayor gave a short presentation and then took questions from GOHBA’s executive director, Jason Burggraaf, and some of the 180 GOHBA members in attendance.
“The simple truth is we’re not building homes quickly enough,” he said. If the city is going to see 100,000 homes, including 10,000 affordable homes, built over the next 10 years — (part of Sutcliffe’s election platform and integral to the province’s ambitious goal of 1.5 million new homes in 10 years) — “we must work together.”
Asked about specifics to achieve that goal, he said he wants to form a task force with the “right people around the table” and that he sees building close to public transit as an opportunity not only to build a lot of new homes but also to build sustainably. He pointed to the LRT Bayview Station as an example of an area where the city owns vacant land that might be used for housing. (Referencing the problem-plagued LRT, he joked, “It’s running today.”)
Sutcliffe pointed to other opportunities for hitting his housing goals. That includes transforming downtown office space now sitting vacant into residential space as well as intensifying existing neighbourhoods “without changing their essential character.”
Asked about the potential rental/ownership split for new affordable housing, he said that hasn’t yet been determined.
The mayor said Ontario’s new Bill 23 (the More Homes Built Faster Act) and Bill 109 (More Homes for Everyone Act), both of which include controversial measures designed to speed up housing construction, “are having a huge impact on what we’re doing, and city staff has been working to identify what amendments we’ll have to make to our policies, procedures and bylaws.”
He called the changes under the new legislation to development charges that are levied on new residential construction, including reducing or freezing some charges, “concerning” because of the potential negative impact on municipal revenues, but added the province has said it will work with cities on the issue.
Sutcliffe addressed other questions, keeping his tone upbeat and, toward the end of the Q&A, introducing a note of inevitability.
“Whenever you talk about building more homes, people want to know where they’re going to be built and how it will impact them … People are going to be resistant to change and resistant to intensification, but the growth is going to happen in our city no matter what, so we’ve all got to share in it and see it as an opportunity.”