City seeks Dow's Lake area land for supportive housing

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The City of Ottawa hopes to buy a parking lot at 289 Carling Avenue from the Canada Lands Company so it can be used for a supportive housing complex. (Google Street View)

By Kate Porter, CBC News

The City of Ottawa is hoping to buy a parcel of land on Carling Avenue near Dow's Lake for a dollar, so the lot can be used for a new supportive housing complex.

The development would create stable housing for people who are chronically homeless, and offer health care and other on-site supports services.

The project is still in its very early stages, but on Tuesday Ottawa's planning committee gave staff the approval to apply to a federal program for the land and, eventually, to find a builder.

The 1,270 square-metre lot is owned by Canada Lands Corporation, and is located beside the Booth Street complex and very near Commissioners' Park at Dow's Lake. The city estimates it to be worth $2.5 million.

But it hopes to pay only $1 for it, under a program that makes surplus federal property available to be developed for housing projects that can reduce homelessness.

Already, neighbours are expressing concerns about the development, said the ward's councillor, David Chernushenko, and will want to see public consultation.

City aims to have development built in 2018

If its application is accepted, city staff would hope to negotiate with the federal government in 2017 and then launch a request for proposals to find a group to whom it could transfer the land, likely in 2018.

While the city would only sell the lot for $1, staff say the housing branch could contribute $7 million to the building project.

Staff believe 45 to 55 units could be built on the lot, which has been used for parking since the 1960s.

The city has used this federal program twice before. It transferred land on Albion Road, which became 64 units for the non-profit McLean Co-operative Housing Inc.

It also bought a $1.7 million property on Den Haag Drive from the federal government for a dollar in 2011, and the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization then built an eight-storey, 74-unit apartment building and townhouses.

City planning committee OKs affordable housing application, new Barrhaven farmers' market

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

The planning committee proved Tuesday it can get a lot done in little time.

In less than 40 minutes, the committee said “yes” to more condos for Hintonburg, as well as separate proposals to buy surplus federal land to build affordable housing and start a new farmer’s market in south Ottawa.

New land for $1

With council’s blessing, the city will apply to buy a piece of vacant federal land between the Glebe and Little Italy to build new social housing units.

The property at 289 Carling Ave., located just west of Bronson Avenue on the northeast side of Bell Street, has been used as a surface parking lot since the 1960s, but staff say the land is suitable for a five- or six-storey building comprised of 45 to 55 bachelor apartments.

The federal government will sell the surplus land to the city for $1. The land would then be transferred, again for $1, to a housing provider selected by the city, which would ultimately develop the site. The city would contribute about $7 million to the initiative.

The building’s eventual height and size, as well as the developer and prospective occupants all remain unknown at this point as the housing services branch is only at the first step — getting approval to file an application to the federal government.

Ottawa's new water rate structure has a few leaks

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Erwin Dreessen, Ottawa Citizen

Four things stand out after the City of Ottawa’s environment committee unanimously approved a new water, wastewater and stormwater fee structure last Tuesday.

1. The very low water user will get shafted. “Kim, from Westboro,” as she is named in the staff documents, who uses just five cubic metres of water a month (compared to an average of 16 c/m per household), will see her bill go up from $20 a month to $33.

She may live in a tiny house, be away often, be rich or poor, but she cannot be happy with that change. If low water usage was a lifestyle choice, she no longer has an incentive to save water. The proposed rate structure includes some measures to attenuate the effect on low users of introducing a fixed charge; without them the impact would be even worse. But the harsh impact remains, and not just for Kim.

The staff report admits that “single detached homes that consume less than 12 cubic metres per month will see an increase in their water bill of between $3 to $13 per month due to the impact of the fixed charge.”

This should be corrected. Making the first six c/m free for everybody and recalibrating the rates should do it.

2. It now appears widely recognized that, back in 2001, city council made a mistake when it removed the cost of maintaining rural road ditches and culverts from the property tax side and had it funded by the water rate-supported budget. It would seem straightforward to correct that error but ho! – without actually increasing the tax-based budget, that would come at the expense of the current rural road maintenance budget, which is already under duress.

This is a vivid illustration of why an inflexible cap of a two-per-cent property-tax increase is bad policy. There should be exceptions.  Errors should be corrected. We’re talking about $2.6 million that now must be funnelled to the roads budget through the back door.

Ottawa's low-volume water users surprisingly quiet over rate change

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Under proposed water rate change, light users are facing a heavy increase

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News

Joanne Chianello is a journalist with CBC Ottawa. She came to the CBC after a 20-year career at the Ottawa Citizen, where she was city hall bureau chief, city affairs columnist and the city editor. But not all at the same time. You can email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tweet her at @jchianello.

Of the 10 members of the public to speak at Tuesday's environment committee on the revamped water and sewer bill, only Doug Poulter was — in his words — "one of those low-volume users."

"Under this proposal, I'll be looking at four times what I'm currently paying now," Poulter told councillors. ​

It was somewhat surprising not to hear more from the 28,000 customers who use less than 6,000 litres of water a month: these are the so-called low-volume users and, despite being the most frugal consumers, they would be hit hardest by the changes to how we're billed for water.

And now, they're about to get walloped.

For example, someone who uses just 2,000 litres of water a month would go from spending $8 a month to about $30.

Someone who uses 5,000 litres? The new monthly bill would be $33, instead of $20. (For comparison, the "average" use is about 16,000 litres.)

Focus has been on rural complaints

Instead, we've heard mostly from upset rural residents who aren't on the city's water system, but are now being asked to pay as much as $4.44 for stormwater services.

A homogenous group living in just a few wards, the concentration of these voices can really pump up the volume of your argument.

They packed seven public meetings and flooded their rural councillors' office phones with complaints.

Even Glenn Brooks, the former councillor for the Rideau-Goulbourn ward, showed up at committee to protest the stormwater charge (although the current councillor, Scott Moffatt, more than held his own defending the new changes).

And yet, rural residents have a lot less (if anything) to complain about than low-volume users.