By Charlie Senack
Ottawa Community Housing [OCH] has announced that a new affordable housing complex will be built on Gladstone Avenue near Little Italy. With 273 units as part of the development, a large handful will be dedicated to aging artists.
A groundbreaking for the complex was held at the site on Oct. 6. Among those in attendance were Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier, and a handful of city councillors.
The complex will be part of Mosaïq Phase 2, which includes non-residential spaces dedicated to commercial rentals, community services, and innovative work/live units. Once complete, it will bring the total number of affordable housing units at the site to 413.
Stéphane Giguère, CEO of OCH, said their concept is unique for Canada.
“We go up to four-bedroom apartments so it’s quite significant in Canada,” Giguère said. “In fact, we build up to six bedrooms as we speak right now because the needs are there.”
Ottawa is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. To deal with the issue, in early September, the city’s planning and housing committee approved a plan to spend $110 million over the next three years to get shovels in the ground. Even then, there are concerns the city needs more than three times that amount.
Zoning bylaws might soon be amended to allow for taller and denser housing, and the city is also looking at allowing four units on one lot instead of three. Some suburban councilors are worried, however, that it might not work in their neighborhoods.
Mayor Sutcliffe said Ottawa currently has 558 affordable housing units under construction. With the recent announcement, that number is up to 831 units. OCH has plans to build and design 912 new homes, with further details being announced soon.
“Just this year in Ottawa for the first time ever, we have more supportive housing units than shelter beds in our city. That’s a really important milestone for Ottawa,” he said. “My focus from day one as mayor has been getting shovels in the ground and building affordable housing for Ottawa residents as quickly as possible.”
For low-income renters, the housing crisis has hit particularly hard. A recent poll by Abacus Data suggests that 73 per cent of low-income renters in the country said the increasing cost of rent is a “very serious problem.” Sixty-nine per cent of them said the problem had gotten worse in recent months.
The new Gladstone-area Rochester Heights development is partnering with Pal Ottawa, an affordable housing initiative which primarily works with artists over the age of 65.
Liah Cogah, chair of the board of directors for the non-profit, said the new building will include 86 units for their members, alongside a community art space.
“It’s a fantastic location when it comes to arts history. The Corso Italia district is known for its vibrant art scene,” she said. “We really hope that our artists feel a sense of belonging, that they are wanted here, that they are valued here, that they are seen and that they can continue to contribute to the neighbourhood they have been leading for decades.”