City of Ottawa hopes for 'year of housing' in upcoming federal budget

Coun. Diane Deans and the general manager of housing will send a letter to the federal housing minister asking for a big boost to the City of Ottawa's housing funding in the upcoming federal budget.

'We want to be able to build new units, and that takes money'

City of Ottawa officials will be asking the federal government to triple affordable housing funding in the upcoming budget to $200 million, allowing the city to build some 1,300 new units. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

City of Ottawa officials will make their pitch for a big funding boost in the upcoming federal budget to allow hundreds of new affordable or social housing units to be built locally.

At a committee meeting on Thursday, city staff described how 40,000 households in Ottawa live in poverty — but there are only 25,000 units available in social housing or at affordable rates.

"We want to be able to make a big dent," said Coun. Diane Deans, referring to the long waiting list for social housing.

"We want to be able to build new units, and that takes money."

Deans, who chairs the city's community and protective services committee, and Janice Burelle, the city's general manager of community and social services, plan to write a letter to federal housing minister Jean-Yves Duclos ahead of the tabling of the federal budget, which is expected in the coming weeks.

Tripling construction funding

The municipality received $68 million between 2014 and 2020 under the Investing in Affordable Housing program, said Shelley VanBuskirk, manager of the city's housing branch.

Officials will ask the federal government to nearly triple that funding to $200 million, allowing the city to build 1,300 new units, she said. 

The city also hopes for more money to repair existing social housing units, as it falls short $22 million every year. The city's housing branch would also like more stability in its long-term social housing agreements with the federal government, and is asking that those agreements be maintained so that the city doesn't have to worry about their upcoming expiry dates. 

Time is right, says Deans

Deans said she believes the time is right to ask for an influx of cash for affordable housing.

The federal government is preparing a national housing strategy, she said, and housing has been an important topic at recent meetings of Canada's big city mayors.

"Municipalities across Canada are very hopeful that this is going to be the year of housing and that we're going to see giant steps forward in housing funding federally," said Deans.

"For a number of years, the federal government hasn't been very present on this issue," she added. "So this is an opportunity."