I learned that Salus had been approved for funding in late January. I learned on March 17, 2014, that a Site Plan Control Proposal had been filed and, at around the same time, that an application had been made for a minor variance, to be heard by the Committee of Adjustment on April 2, 2014. Many residents were also notified at that time. I have been responding to letters and calls from concerned residents, and I have shared all the information available to me.
I support the creation of well-designed housing for the less fortunate, including the mentally ill, on land that is available, affordable and in close proximity to services and amenities that these individuals need. That being said, neither I nor the rest of City Council is involved in decisions to fund social and assisted housing projects. Applications are received and evaluated by City staff independent of Council. If this were not the case, few such projects would be developed, as councillors would always be under pressure to build them somewhere else. History has shown that it is very hard to get supported housing of any kind built within existing communities, owing to insufficient funding, lack of affordable land and, often, community opposition.
I recognize that there is indeed a higher concentration of assisted housing in Heron Park North compared to other parts of Capital Ward. However, a number of these developments do exist in neighbourhoods like the Glebe and Old Ottawa South, including on my own block. Given the opportunity (land, a project sponsor, etc.) I would gladly continue to work to increase the amount of affordable housing units and assisted living units within these other parts of Capital Ward.
With a growing senior population, low-income residents and ongoing high levels of mental illness (an issue we are only just beginning to properly recognize), there will be growing demand for a range of assisted housing types everywhere. I see it as my responsibility to help address that need. For that reason, I believe the Salus development should be accommodated in general, but should also try to address as many specific concerns of residents as possible.
It is my responsibility as councillor to represent and balance the interests of my constituency with the long-term and immediate needs of the broader community of the City of Ottawa. I will continue to work with Salus, the HPCA and community members to facilitate constructive dialogue about creating housing for citizens with mental health issues in a manner appropriate to the local community.
Councillor for Capital Ward