Ottawa municipal committee approves spending plan for $176.3 million in federal affordable housing funds

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

The Planning and Housing Committee has approved a spending plan for up to $176.3 million promised to the city through the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) – a $4-billion  fund that aims to create more supply of housing at an accelerated pace. The spending plan allocates 90 per cent of those funds to non-profit housing providers to build affordable housing.

Allocating most of the HAF funding to non-profit housing providers would align with the action plan for these funds that Council approved in July 2023. The action plan includes an affordable housing pipeline initiative that recognizes there are thousands of affordable units planned by non-profit housing providers that are awaiting capital funds to proceed.

The final amount of funding received will be conditional on the city achieving growth targets set out in the action plan. The spending plan approved on March 27 provides the best opportunity for the city to achieve those targets to ensure Ottawa is eligible to receive the full amount of its HAF allocation, the city says in a statement.

Those growth targets require the city to issue building permits for more than 37,500 new dwellings by the end of 2026. Growth targets also require that 5.5 per cent of those new dwellings (2,067 dwellings by the end of 2026) be for affordable housing.

While 90 per cent of funds would go to non-profit housing providers, the remaining 10 per cent would support the other initiatives outlines in the action plan. Some of the other initiatives include accelerating disposal and preparation of city-owned lands for housing, streamlining planning approvals, implementing an affordable housing community improvement plan, and preparing a new comprehensive zoning by-law.

In other business, Lowertown could soon see development of a nine-storey residential building on Nelson Street, between York and Rideau streets, after the committee approved a residential zoning for the site. Part of the site was previously zoned for industrial uses. The building would have 421 dwellings, with at least 10 per cent being three-bedrooms or bigger.

The applicant is also required to provide significant investments in the community through contributions to Rideau-Vanier Ward’s accounts for crime prevention through environmental design ($200,000), security upgrades ($60,000) and affordable housing ($275,000), under the former Section 37 of the Planning Act.

The committee also approved a zoning amendment to facilitate development of a four-storey 16-unit apartment building on Scott Street. The property would continue to be zoned for residential uses, but the amendment would permit an apartment building at this site. The Official Plan identifies Scott Street as a Mainstreet Corridor and, as a result, the area will gradually transition from single-storey homes to a community with greater residential density. The four-storey building planned at this site would help provide a transition toward existing low-rise homes as the area intensifies.

The committee received a memo showing that, as of the end of 2023, there are nearly 31,500 dwellings in the pipeline that are either ready to be built or that require further approvals. To help address the housing crisis, council committed to providing home builders enough opportunities to build 151,000 quality market homes by 2031. The city exceeded the Province’s Building Faster Fund criteria of 80 per cent of the 2023 goal, making Ottawa eligible to receive funding.

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