It is true that collaboration makes us better: tackling Ottawa’s housing crisis, Ottawa Community Land Trust (OCLT) provides a holistic approach to community building—often missed in traditional development frameworks.
Ottawa Community Land Trust (OCLT)
$150,000 from the Sector Transformation Fund—Local Project
Ottawa is experiencing an extreme shortage of affordable housing. The vacancy rate has fallen from 1.7% in 2017 to 1.6% in 2018. Furthermore, it is estimated that an approximate 25% of rental households are in core need, which means they spend 30% or more of their gross income on housing and/or live in inadequate housing.
Although the City of Ottawa has jurisdictional responsibility for affordable housing, it has only facilitated the development of 364 new affordable housing units since 2014. This supply is not nearly enough to meet the demand: over 12,000 households are currently on the Ottawa Social Housing Registry waitlist—with an average of five to seven years before accessing housing.
ACORN Canada’s report on the housing crisis in Ottawa, entitled Affordable for Who, details this predicament, exemplifying that tenants cannot keep up with rising rents. From 2005 to 2015, market rents rose by 26%, while area median income (AMI) increased only by 4 per cent. The report concludes, “Development is failing to meet the need of low- and moderate-income tenants, while rents are rising and vacancy rates are dropping. Urgent action is needed to address this affordability crisis.”
Adding to this conundrum, the existing supply of affordable housing is at risk: CCOC, Tompkins Co-op, Alex Laidlaw Co-op and other private leaseholders in the LeBreton Flats area lease property from CMHC. As the lease termination dates approach, remortgaging will become increasingly difficult because of the restrictive lender criteria for mortgages and CMHC’s criteria for underwriting those mortgages.
This presents a unique opportunity to consolidate and transfer the various parcels of land in the area into an Ottawa Community Land Trust (CLT).
Amidst this perfect storm, the Centre is pleased to announce it has awarded $150,000 to Ottawa Community Land Trust Coalition (OCLT) to support their commitment to the growth of Ottawa’s social service assets, and to dynamically tackle the gaps in service.
The Ottawa Community Land Trust (OCLT) is a not-for-profit organization stewarding community land assets in perpetuity. Using the OCLT to bring together diverse voices across the housing sector breaks down silos, reduces duplication, and provides the government with a single point of contact to deliver on policy objectives.
Furthermore, a land trust is a dynamic mechanism that can support a wide range of affordable housing options not represented in the existing housing market. The OCLT requests existing affordable housing providers who currently lease land from a government, such as the City or CMHC, to transfer their leases to the OCLT, and asks the landowner to do the same. By bringing together multiple single housing operators, a land trust model creates economies of scale previously unattainable to individual housing providers—accelerating growth and creating greater opportunities to deepen affordability for tenants.
The OCLT requires financial support for project coordination and leadership, the development of a website and social media presence, insurance, and research and development—all of which set the foundation for a robust and efficient collaborative structure. A portion of the funds will serve to hire evaluation consultants to measure the impact of the OCLT on the resilience of the housing sector and the affordable housing market as described.
“The OCLT is exciting for Ottawa as it aims to both preserve the existing affordable housing stock while catalyzing new development. It offers the current housing system in Ottawa, with deep knowledge and experience, the opportunity to come together in collaborative leadership under a new model that defends housing as a human right and a public good,” says Laine Johnson, Director of Tenant and Community Engagement at Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation.
The Centre’s involvement brings credibility and legitimacy to the project, when entering into conversations with potential partners such as the National Capital Commission, CMHC and additional funders in the private and philanthropic sectors. Also, affiliation with the Centre offers ongoing access to sector expertise, guidance, and support.
Land trusts provide a holistic approach to community building that is often missed in traditional development frameworks. A complementary sector response to Ottawa’s housing crisis, the land trust model will unite several smaller housing providers under one voice where expertise and skills will be shared and disseminated more quickly. The perpetual affordability of the land will allow smaller housing providers to leverage their surpluses for capital repairs, renewal, and redevelopment. The OCLT will work especially well for developing large parcels of surplus land, such as LeBreton Flats, because the land can also be used to offer childcare and other social facilities needed to create holistic communities.
A steering committee comprised of leaders from the community housing sector in Ottawa, including representatives from Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, CHASEO, CHF Canada and the Ottawa Social Housing Network, have developed a business case for the OCLT.
The OCLT will partner with non-profits, cooperatives, and municipalities to preserve and support diverse affordable housing assets and real estate projects. It envisions a housing sector in Ottawa where affordable housing is supported by a strong and interconnected network of community leaders who preserve and increase the stock of affordable housing. To follow OCLT’s development, you can visit Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation.