Today Jim Watson announced that he would increase funding for Ottawa’s housing and homelessness program by $2 million annually if re-elected Mayor on October 27.
This added investment would build on the progress made in Watson’s first term, during which he has focused on reducing chronic homelessness and creating a city where everyone has a safe and affordable place to live.
“Caring and strong communities need to make housing affordable to those who are most vulnerable,” said Watson. “We have made progress in the last four years and we need to continue to work together to improve access to supportive housing in our city.”
In 2010, Watson was elected on a platform to increase the investment in housing and homelessness by an unprecedented $14 million annually. Since then, the City of Ottawa has made significant progress:
- There are 50% fewer families living in motels as emergency shelter overflow;
- The number of people living on the streets has declined by 80%;
- There has been an 18% decrease in the number of families needing emergency shelter;
- 575 affordable housing units have been approved, built or are under construction;
- The affordable housing wait list has been stabilized over the last four years;
- Under Watson’s leadership, the City of Ottawa now has a 10-year affordable housing plan called “A Home For Everyone”
If re-elected on October 27, Watson will renew the existing funding commitment and increase the investment by $2 million annually, bringing the total annual investment to $16 million. This would be a combined total of $64 million over four years – the single largest targeted funding for affordable housing in the City of Ottawa’s history.
Watson would aim to reduce the number of residents who require an emergency shelter by 15% over the course of the next five years. This would mean helping about 1,000 more people get the help they need to avoid staying in shelters.
While the City of Ottawa is making progress, Watson expressed concern that the average length of stays for families in an emergency shelter went from 88 nights in 2012 to 98 nights in 2013. These shelters are intended for emergency and short-term stays, but Watson says they have become de facto long-term shelters that offer little stability. Reversing this trend will require continued close collaboration between the City of Ottawa and its housing partners.
“Our long-term goal should be to significantly reduce our reliance on emergency shelters. We need to continue to move from short-term fixes to long-term solutions,” said Watson. “No one wants to see families spend extended periods of time in emergency shelters.”
Watson will target new funding in a way that will impact the greatest number of residents in the quickest ways possible:
- 50% of new funds to be directed to rent supplements and housing allowances;
- 25% for community supports that keep residents from becoming homeless in the first place; and
- 25% for repairs to existing units.
Capital funding made available for housing and homelessness would continue to support the City’s long-term priorities set out in the current 10-year plan, and would continue to be selected via a competitive Request For Proposals process to ensure the most effective use of taxpayer dollars.
Watson will continue to work closely with the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, and organizations like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to secure the funds required to maintain the City of Ottawa’s existing affordable housing units.
Reduction of poverty and homelessness are issues that Watson has worked on closely throughout his career. As Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Watson worked with the AMO to conclude the historic Provincial-Municipal Fiscal Service Delivery Review Agreement. That uploading deal is estimated to provide Ontario municipalities $1.5 billion in net benefit by the year 2018. In Ottawa, the upload agreement has funded the housing and homelessness progress that has been achieved since 2010.
As a provincial Minister, Watson also oversaw the delivery of $100 million in new funds for housing and homelessness, the largest affordable housing agreement in Ontario’s history. Most recently, in 2013, Watson was recognized by Canadian Housing Renewal Association for his work on breaking the cycle of poverty.
The municipal election will be held on Monday, October 27.