This statement first sets out the essence of the petition being circulated to express support for the motion to declare a housing emergency, which is to be considered by Ottawa City Council on January 29, 2020, and then states our position on the motion.
Whereas: The City of Ottawa prides itself as being a caring and compassionate city and continually strives to be a place where people want to live, work and play; and providing access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing for everyone is fundamental to achieving that goal.
[The Council of the City of Ottawa hereby asked to:]
 declare an affordable housing and homelessness emergency in Ottawa;
 call on Provincial and Federal governments to assist us by providing the City with an immediate increase in emergency funding for housing, housing supports and housing allowances as well as a long-term financial plan to meet the needs of the community;
 resolve that the update to the ten-year housing and homelessness plan include aggressive targets to:
[a] preserve and increase the affordable housing supply;
[b] increase access to housing affordability;
[c] prevent the occurrence of homelessness and eliminate by 100 per cent chronic homelessness by 2024; and
[d] ensure people are supported to achieve housing stability and long-term housing retention.
EOLO'S POSITION ON THE PETITION AND THE MOTION
EOLO agrees entirely with the petition's preamble (the whereas clause). EOLO also agrees in large part with points 1, 2 and 3 of the petition, and thus EOLO supports the petition and the motion. (The full motion is available in draft at www.housingemergencyottawa.ca.)
However, EOLO wants to register some concerns about policy and service directions which could flow from the adoption of the motion.
Concern #1 – When a situation is defined as an emergency, that definition is sometimes used to justify measures to address the emergency immediately, even though those measures are counter-productive in the long term. Housing construction investments are very long-term investments, and the long-term impacts of short-term measures must be kept in mind.
Concern #2 – With respect to preserving the affordable housing supply [point 3 a], measures to do that in the short term need to be structured to avoid interfering with the long-term increase in the housing supply. For example, prohibitions on demolition (or unreasonable requirements for demolition) can interfere with new housing construction, both directly and by discouraging new construction.
Concern #3 – With respect to point 3c, the solutions to the homelessness problem must bear in mind the influx of people into Ottawa. Eliminating homelessness in one city, which has no control on immigration to the city, runs up against the problem that the better conditions are made in that city (here), the more people at risk of homelessness may move to that city to use the services which create the better conditions. Ottawa may need to impose residency requirements, or take other steps, in order to address and minimize that problem.
Concern #4 – In the motion itself, although not in the petition, there is a recommendation that the City expropriate certain vacant buildings for affordable housing development. EOLO is not opposed to that action provided the zoning of the property is reasonable having regard to its location, the highest and best use at the location, and what other property owners are being allowed to do in the vicinity. In other words, we would oppose expropriation at a reduced property value due to down zoning or inadequate zoning (which could lead an owner to delay development).
John Dickie, Dickie & Lyman