Ottawa Salus development in Heron Park

Questions & Answers

Updated on April 4, 2014

What is the planned development on Clementine Blvd.?

In June 2010, Ottawa Salus purchased three lots at 1486, 1490 and 1494 Clementine Blvd. between Rockingham and Bélanger Aves. in Heron Park. Salus intends to develop supportive housing on this site to accommodate adults living with severe and persistent mental illness, including anxieties and depression.

The planned four-storey apartment building conforms to current zoning for this site. It will contain 42 bachelor units that measure about 400 square feet (37 m2) each and adhere to City of Ottawa guidelines for new Supportive Housing construction. The entire building will have about 30,400 square feet (2,824 m2) of floor space.

What is Ottawa Salus?

Ottawa Salus is a not-for profit corporation that provides community mental health services, including supportive housing, rehabilitation and individual support services for adults aged 16 and over. It currently operates nine apartment buildings, one single-family home and and four group homes serving hundreds of clients.

Ottawa Salus is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, the City of Ottawa, and private donations. It works closely with agencies like Canadian Mental Health Association, Causeway, Montfort Renaissance and the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

Salus has more than 80 employees providing case management, community development, recreation, rehabilitation and occupational therapy in English, French, American Sign Language and Langue des signes québécoise. Salus managers indicate that they have initiated Neighborhood Watch programs, encourage gardening, and involve employees, clients, their families and the community. Thanks to its fundraising program, Salus is able to provide grants allowing clients to pursue individual interest courses at college, university and in the community.

Why do we need special housing for people with mental illness?

Mental illness is one of the biggest challenges to our nation's health and wellbeing, and an estimated one in five Canadians will require treatment for a psychiatric problem during their lifetime. Mental illness often results is the loss of an individual’s home and personal support systems. Agencies like Salus provide these people with a good home in a safe community, which benefits these individuals as well as society as a whole.

Salus serves clients who can benefit from supportive housing arrangements where they can learn social and practical skills, and benefit from regular interaction with their co-residents and the broader community. Salus’s client-centred approach recognizes that every individual has unique needs and abilities, and focuses on enhancing abilities and learning new skills.
There are currently more than 525 people on Salus’s waiting list.

Will residents be supervised?

Clementine, like other larger properties at Salus, will have a full-time Community Developer on site during the day Mondays to Fridays. The Community Developer will provide group programming in an effort to build community spirit within the building or to create links with the outside community for services such as banking or filing tax returns, for example. Programming can include breakfast clubs, documentary movie groups, music lessons, a gardening committee, art and creative writing courses, theatre workshops and lectures on a variety of topics. Recreational activities can include bowling, floor hockey, swimming, and health and nutrition workshops.

Salus is trying a new approach to staffing by also providing a staff person during the evening from Wednesdays to Sundays to meet with tenants one-on-one to address individual needs outside regular business hours.

In addition, maintenance staff will be at the building three mornings a week to clean and maintain the property.

Will this development endanger local residents and lower property values?

Ottawa is a very diverse city with a population that includes people with varying incomes, in varying family situations, with varying needs. This includes families, students, senior citizens, people on social assistance, disabled individuals requiring assistive devices, and people with mental health issues who lack ongoing resources and support. The Salus development will help accommodate people who already live in the local community, and who can benefit immensely from supportive housing.
Further, the municipal government does not decide who can live in what building, and supports diverse communities that accommodate all kinds of residents with open arms and open minds.

The Ontario Planning Act does not allow the City to limit the amount of public or non-market housing. The Ontario Planning Act is covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, as such, municipal zoning by-laws and official plans may only regulate land use and not the type of persons (such as individuals with mental illness) who can reside on any given property.

Who is paying for this development?

Ottawa Salus Corporation did not receive any funding from the City of Ottawa when it first purchased the property in 2010.

In June 2013, the City’s Housing Services Branch released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to qualify and select agencies to participate in a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to build up to 100 units of supportive housing in the City. Salus responded to the RFQ and was selected to participate in the RFP process, which concluded in November 2013.

Funding for the project was approved by a selection committee comprised of City Staff and community members in December 2013, in accordance with the Program Delivery and Fiscal Plan (PDFP) approved by Planning Committee and City Council as part of the Federal/Provincial Investing in Affordable Housing for Ontario (IAH) Program. The federal, provincial and City investment totals $5.04M, with about a third coming from each level of government.
Salus is responsible for the remaining funding for the project and is also contributing the land purchased by them in 2010.

Neither City Council nor the local councillor was involved in the decisions to fund this project. Applications for social and assisted housing are received and evaluated 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 supportive housing of any kind built within existing communities, owing to insufficient funding, lack of affordable land and, often, community opposition.

On what basis did the City approve 42 units?

The size of building and number of units approved was based on the proposal submitted as part of the RFP and Salus’s ability to manage similar developments in other communities. Proposals were rated primarily on the following factors:

  • Development team and agency competencies
  • Support service concept and experience
  • Design concept including both the building design and neighbourhood compatibility
  • Proposal feasibility and sustainability
  • Property management ability and experience.

Other criteria included community consultation and outreach as well as accessible design requirements for persons living with disabilities.

Heron Park already has a lot of social/subsidized housing. Why can’t the City build this development somewhere else?

Consideration of other types of buildings and existing social housing is always a factor. The City recognizes that the area already hosts many community housing units. However, it must balance this with the need to provide supportive housing in locations where there is affordable land available, and where residents will be able to access local services, amenities, employment and public transit in close proximity.

Overall, Capital Ward has the lowest concentration of Ottawa Community Housing Corporation (OCHC) units and total social housing of all the central wards. It is also the only ward with no non-market (subsidized) units built since 1999:

  12 – Rideau-Vanier    2,781    3,766 
  13 – Rideau-Rockcliffe     2,186    3,056 
  14 – Somerset    1,641    4,132 
  15 – Kitchissippi    1,151    1,769 
  17 – Capital    440    455 

Please note, too, that the Ontario Planning Act does not allow the City to limit the amount of public or non-market housing. The Ontario Planning Act is covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, as such, municipal zoning by-laws and official plans may only regulate land use and not the type of persons (such as individuals with mental illness) who can reside on any given property.

Is the Salus development appropriate for this neighbourhood?

Heron Park area is targeted for intensification, and will benefit from O-Train expansion, a new Community Design Plan and the reconstruction of Bank Street in the coming years. The land in question is categorized as R4 for planning purposes, which allows a wide mix of residential building that maintain or enhance the residential character of the neighbourhood and provide additional housing choices. This includes low-rise apartment dwellings of no more than four storeys. The proposed building respects all these requirements.

Why has Salus asked for a variance?

Salus has requested a minor variance to reduce the required number of parking spaces because tenants typically cannot afford to own a car.

Has Ottawa Salus consulted the local community?

Ottawa Salus says it supports opportunities for citizens to participate in open and honest dialogue help build stronger communities, and has committed to engaging the community and neighbours around Clementine in a series of meetings to address and resolve their concerns.

So far, Salus says it has been proactive in consulting with local residents and the Heron Park Community Association, and cites the following examples:

  • In July 2010, Ottawa Salus delivered a letter to neighbours in the immediate vicinity to explain the presence of machinery being used to conduct soil tests. The letter explained Salus’s work and its history in Ottawa, and described the plans for developing and providing housing on Clementine. The letter generated two inquiries at the time, to which the executive director of Salus responded.

  • In 2010, Salus met with the City councillor at the time, Clive Doucet, to discuss development plans. In 2012, it met with the current councillor, David Chernushenko, to provide details and information on the site, the plan for a building, and the desire to explore Passive House construction, i.e. designing buildings to meet the world’s highest standards for energy efficiency.

  • Salus has been in regular contact with the Heron Park Community Association (HPCA) since early 2011 to discuss how to keep the community informed about plans for the Clementine property. In 2012, Salus contributed a description of their plans to the Heron Park Herald.

  • In preparation for the submission of its planning proposal to the City in the fall of 2013, Ottawa Salus met with the HPCA president to discuss options for meeting with the community to describe the project and discuss plans for the property.

  • Shortly after, when the HPCA shared a number of emails from concerned neighbours, Salus met with a group of concerned residents on on Nov. 16 in the home of a neighbour directly behind the Clementine Blvd. lot to discuss concerns and questions with community members. The meeting included a site visit to show the building and garden placement, setback dimensions and other factors.

  • During the course of the meeting, it was suggested that current issues in the neighbourhood might be resolved through a community engagement strategy that included the participation of other organizations such as Ottawa Community Housing. Three neighbours agreed to participate in a committee to examine neighbourhood challenges, and opportunities for addressing those same challenges. Ottawa Salus committed to leading this process once the announcement about the funding for development on the Clementine site has been made public.

  • Salus has since approached Ottawa Community Housing to engage them in a neighbourhood strategy. OCH immediately agreed to participate in the community process and engage their tenant association members in meetings.

  • Prior to the placement of the sign indicating that a minor variance was being sought on the lot (March 17, 2014), the executive director of Salus sent an email to the HPCA and those neighbours with whom she had met in the fall to advise them of the signage. No details were shared on the development, as the information is not yet public.

What is the Heron Park Community Association’s position on this development?

The HPCA has long been aware of the development plans and says it supports the application. It has been keeping the community informed through its meetings and the Heron Park Herald.

The community association has heard from residents concerned about issues such as potential noise, parking shortages, the proximity of mentally ill individuals to young families, and the amount of space and accessible seating that will be provided outdoors to allow the property’s residents to socialize.

The HPCA encourages ongoing community consultation between Salus, local residents and the City of Ottawa to address these and other concerns.