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.

City Leaders Need The Courage To Build Sustainable Urban Centres

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Tobi Nussbaum, special to Huffington Post

A billion more people will be living in cities the next time a gavel opens the bi-decennial UN conference on housing and sustainable urban development, known as UN-Habitat (hint -- that will be in 20 years). Following this week's proceedings in Quito, Ecuador, cities will face two significant challenges between now and the next meeting in 2036.

The first is coping with the inexorable trend towards urbanization. By 2036, over 60 per cent of the world's population will reside in cities. The burgeoning number of urban dwellers worldwide will put pressure on city governments in areas ranging from housing to services, infrastructure to transportation.

The second challenge is the need to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) while adapting to rising temperatures. Cities are responsible for 70 per cent of the world's GHGs, so will be on the frontlines to mitigate emissions. At the same time, located close to major water bodies as most are, cities are vulnerable to flooding and rising sea levels, requiring climate adaptation investments.

As a former diplomat, I have had the opportunity to experience cities around the world with drastically varying conditions — large and small, rich and poor, coastal and landlocked, peaceful and violent. Yet, despite these differences, I have seen cities across this spectrum successfully preparing for continued population growth while increasing climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

As a current Ottawa city councillor, I've learned that if pursued effectively, such approaches can work to improve economic opportunities, social equity and health outcomes for citizens — priorities that all cities work to achieve. The following 10 actions represent a good place to start building sustainable cities: