Finding community amid change

By Bhavana Gopinath –

Taiga, the non-profit housing apartment complex at Scott Street, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. From its vantage spot behind Newport restaurant, Taiga bears witness to the changes in Westboro in recent years: modest homes have given way to condos and infills, and many stores are trendy boutiques. Amid all this change, Taiga remains a welcoming oasis of affordable housing.

As a non-profit housing society, about 75% of Taiga’s 104 units are occupied by tenants in the rent-geared-to-income (RGI) system. Under this system, tenants pay about 30% of their gross monthly income as rent, and a subsidy paid directly to the non-profit by the City of Ottawa makes up the difference between the rent paid by the tenant and the market rent of the unit. The Social Housing Registry of Ottawa maintains the central waiting list for people applying for RGI.

Taiga has a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, and some units are fitted to accommodate disabled tenants. It is a well-maintained apartment complex that is close to downtown and transit, and most amenities are within a short walking distance. The complex has a mix of senior residents and young families. Most tenants tend to stay for long periods of time, and there is a strong sense of community in the complex; for instance, tenant volunteers help with the gardening in the common areas.

Tenants like Margaret Jamison-Guitard can speak to the benefits of living at Taiga.

Photo of Margaret Jamison-Guitard by Ellen Bond.
Photo of Margaret Jamison-Guitard by Ellen Bond.

Margaret has lived here for 12 years and her son Connor was raised here. She values the convenience of having been able to walk to work and school: she worked as an Early Childhood Educator at Hilson Avenue Public School, and Connor went to St. Georges Catholic School. She says she has always felt safe in Taiga and in the surrounding areas, and says that she has always been able to rely on her neighbours in the complex for help whenever she needed it. Margaret enjoys the view from her balcony, and she loves that the beach is a stone’s throw away. Connor, now 22, is thinking of getting his own apartment in the complex.

Margaret has seen first-hand how demographics have changed in the area. She describes Westboro residents as being from “both ends of the scale,” those who can afford to spend time at a café sipping lattes, and those who have to rely on a food bank.

Janet Timpson, who uses a wheelchair, echoes Margaret’s sentiments. She has lived at Taiga for 22 years, in the area for 44 years, and her father lives close by. She points out that there are homes, not far from Taiga, that sell for a million dollars, while many Taiga tenants rely on RGI. Nonetheless, “I like living here,” she says. “It’s close to everything.”

Photo of Janet Timpson by Ellen Bond.
Photo of Janet Timpson by Ellen Bond.

Daniel Moonogian, the President of the Board of Directors at Taiga, says that the composition of the city has changed, and lower-income people are being pushed out of the neighbourhood. He believes that the City of Ottawa’s support for Taiga and similar housing projects needs to be bolstered by the involvement of the larger community. This is crucial to plan and build capacity for affordable housing in general, not just RGI housing. He says that it is important to invest in non-profit options like Taiga, which usually don’t have public engagement in the same way that say, a new condo development does.

Photo of Daniel Moonogian by Ellen Bond
Photo of Daniel Moonogian by Ellen Bond

The Board of Directors at Taiga is comprised of seven directors, all volunteers. They are involved with the non-profit housing sector in their day jobs, and have experience in governance as well. An Annual General Meeting is scheduled for the fall, and Daniel is hoping for similarly experienced people from the local community to volunteer their services.

The complex also organizes a holiday get-together and a semi-annual meet-and greet for the board directors and tenants to socialize. A barbeque to celebrate Taiga’s anniversary took place in July, with fun and games for tenants and for the wider community.

Taiga’s day-to-day operations are taken care of by Homestarts, which is a non-profit property management organization. Homestarts team member and Taiga coordinator Tim Enger, and his band of cleaners and maintenance staff ensure that the 104 apartments and all the common areas and amenities are kept in good shape. Residents also help out; some tenants volunteer their gardening skills for the common areas.

Photo of Tim Enger by Ellen Bond.
Photo of Tim Enger by Ellen Bond.

According to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, “Safe, suitable, adequate and affordable housing is a basic human right and essential to the vitality and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities across Ontario.” By all accounts, Taiga seems to exemplify that statement.

Taiga Non-Profit Housing Corporation is currently seeking qualified candidates for their volunteer Board of Directors.

Taiga is a privately owned, tenant and member directed organization whose mission is to create, maintain and promote housing for low and moderate income people. If you would like to become a director or would like any further information please email, telephone 613-725-2651 or write to the Board of Directors at: Board of Directors, Taiga NPHC – 2100 Scott Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1Z 1A3. Please note that the application process is ongoing but candidates who would like to be considered for election at our Annual General Meeting should apply before September 15, 2017.

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