Unique to the Ottawa Inn, however, is that owner Ahmed Syed also houses city shelter clients in off-site residential units — an option that city staff say is cost-effective (they can place large families in one unit instead of multiple hotel rooms), and gives families kitchens, bedrooms and more space than the typical hotel room.
They also point out that the city has recently negotiated a lower nightly rate (from $110 to $89) for these units, and advised the owner that the city no longer intends to use units at one of the three addresses that shelter clients were still being housed in (so these units can return to the long-term housing market, according to Connolly).
Staff warn that if the councillors’ recommendations are adopted by committee and council, families will be relocated into a hotel, which has multiple drawbacks.
They also say that if the city ends its arrangement to use the Tabor apartments, “the loss of these units will reduce the number of rooms available for temporary emergency accommodation for new placement requests, potentially resulting in increased wait times for families in the future.”
McKenney, who is also council’s housing and homelessness liaison, said they understand staff’s concerns — it’s not easy to house families. However, the city’s vacancy rate has increased, and it’s not dealing with the same influx of families arriving in Ottawa, in need of shelter, that it was previously.
“I don’t believe that these families have to go into hotels, I think that we can work with them between now and July to find them proper housing,” said McKenney.
McKenney also noted that if city shelter clients were to leave the Tabor units, they would return to the long-term rental market where they might rent for half of what the city pays now.
The councillor wants to see all families in the shelter system, including those at Tabor, offered the opportunity to access a portable housing allowance, while remaining on the waitlist for social housing. They currently have to give up the latter to access the former, McKenney explained, and it’s keeping people in the shelter system.
“We need … to look for better ways of housing people, and it’s not going happen overnight but things have got to change.”
This content was originally published here.