This investment plan fails in three areas: too few new units built too slowly; prioritizing transitional shelters over permanent homes; and increased spending for emergency shelters.
The city needs to move away from managing a collection of programs and needs to become more focused on outcomes.
Investing $14.6 million a year in new affordable housing units falls short. We must be bold in our investment plans. Last year, the city spent close to $38 million on emergency shelters and motels. It’s time to match this spending in yearly capital investments.
By investing in capital projects, we pay off operational pressures.
As highlighted by various delegations at committee, emergency shelter providers are pivoting towards operating permanent and affordable supportive housing. The city’s plan must accelerate this shift and needs to stop putting more money into an old model.
Another term often used during committee debate was “transition” – notably when speaking about transitional housing for families and women. “Transitional housing” is a euphemism for emergency shelters. As explained at committee by the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa, the city could spend approximately $3 million a year in municipal rent subsidies to help 350 to 400 families afford permanent housing, rather than $12 million to $14 million in yearly spending on emergency shelters for families. Council chose the latter.
We are at a point where shelters are no longer used just for emergencies. We must eliminate this “transition” and ensure residents have a permanent home.
Council is making choices. Ottawa’s affordable housing crisis is not due to a lack of resources, but rather a lack of political will.
Mathieu Fleury is city councillor for Rideau-Vanier ward and chair of the Ottawa Community Housing Board.
This content was originally published here.