Ottawa has 80,000 more suburban homes in its future. Here’s what it might look like

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Rachelle Lecours relaxes in her sunny, tidy bungalow in Orleans, reflecting on the extent of Ottawa’s suburbs in four decades.

“I feel a bit guilty about being part of this growth,” said Lecours. As his family has grown over the years, they have moved from one new development to another, looking for new features in the house and renovating their garage. It was a “bad habit,” she says now.

Homes on the outskirts of town are more popular than ever. People line up when a builder releases a new block of housing to put money on housing.

We cannot just give in to market demand for single family homes.– Coun. Jeff Leiper

But city planners and politicians know that growth comes at a cost – pipes, public transportation, greenhouse gas emissions – and have been talking for years about growing more compact and packing more homes in existing areas to limit these drawbacks.

However, in a large report to be debated at a virtual city committee meeting on May 11, city staff say that what is realistic is to extend the city line to allow an additional 23,300 housing units. outskirts of the suburbs by 2046. This is in addition to the 66,300 units already in the pipeline.

Some 88% of these homes still to be built are suitable for one family, with their own front door. The rest would be apartments.

Coun. Jeff Leiper was shocked that city staff recommended adding as much land – the 1,281 hectares for new urban areas are larger than his entire Kitchissippi neighborhood.

He is also disappointed with staff calculations, saying he appears to have based the need for future land on past housing trends. Leiper wants the urban-rural divide to stay where it is.

“If we want to be sustainable, if we’re going to have 15-minute wards, if we want to have affordable public transportation, if we want to keep our taxes as low as possible, then we can’t just give in to market demand for single family homes, “said Leiper. Its core room is the epicenter of new high-rise towers and costly infill developments.

Rachelle Lecours, who has lived in many parts of Orleans, says her ideal community would have community gardens, bike paths, public transportation and jobs. (Kate Porter / CBC)

Watson: “Easier said than done”

But the mayor of Ottawa agrees with city staff, who said that maintaining the city line is too ambitious.

” [That’s] Easier said than done. You have seen real battles over the years. Everyone talks about intensification, but when it’s in their community, they’re against it. There are dozens of examples, “said Jim Watson.

Watson calls the script staff prefer a “balanced approach”. Ottawa’s population is expected to increase from 400,000 to 1.4 million by 2046, and the city plans to allocate the additional 195,000 households it needs almost equally between existing built-up areas and undeveloped plots. .

The city cannot risk providing insufficient space for the expected accommodation. The Ontario government is demanding that Ottawa show it has had enough.

Ottawa’s population reached one million last year and could increase by 400,000 by 2046. Mayor Jim Watson says the city must plan these new residents responsibly. (Kate Porter / CBC)

This is not to say that the staff scenario does not require much more scaling up than is currently happening. That done. By 2046, an additional 42,700 apartments, as well as 49,400 single, semi-detached and row homes, could enter existing Ottawa neighborhoods

Staff even worked with a local architectural firm on a new type of structure that could help meet the needs of Ottawa families while building a denser city: the “613 flat”.

The “613 flat”, a three-bedroom housing concept designed to integrate into older neighborhoods. The drawing on the left could fit three family units. The one on the right could accommodate four families plus a few smaller units. (City of Ottawa)

In other words, six rooms and three bedrooms per unit in small buildings that blend into their neighbors. It offers the elusive style of “missing housing” – neither a house, nor a high-rise apartment.

The problem, writes staff, is that it takes time to create policies, and even more time to get the building industry and the housing market to move on to building a new lifestyle and fair price that people can afford.

The missing medium

A planner who studies the growth and change of cities says that an important reason why families flock especially to the suburbs is that North American cities have not been very successful in providing them with exactly these kinds of options. .

“Most of our cities have a very high density in the center or a fairly low density in the form of individual houses,” said Markus Moos, associate professor at the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. “So if you’re looking for green space just outside your house, single-family homes are often the only affordable alternative. “

On the one hand, governments must be sure to give neighborhoods the right public transport, equipment and green space they need, said Moos. Ideally, before building a new development, so as not to lock in car-centered habits.

Beyond that, Moos said better ideas are needed to make sure people consider the total cost of where they choose to live.

He talks about the idea of ​​”efficient location mortgages” – financial incentives for home buyers who are less dependent on their cars.

Call for a change of culture

And then there is the state of mind.

“I would like to call for cultural change. We don’t need to have a garden to raise our children. We don’t have to live in a house, “said Naama Blonder, architect at Smart Density in Toronto.

Blonder contributed to the city’s policy on how to make high-rise housing more family-friendly. Many newcomers to Canada come from countries where dense living is the norm, she noted. The buildings here simply have families in mind: units with enough room space and space for a stroller, as well as common areas for teens to do their homework.

And, added Blonder, when battles over new tower proposals take place, focus less on the height of a building and more on promoting a street-level atmosphere and paths that connect people to public transportation and parks.

A different suburban dream

Meanwhile, families continue to choose Ottawa’s remote suburbs because they are affordable. They also love the novelty, lack of maintenance and, sometimes, having space for several generations to live under one roof, said Deborah Burgoyne, President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board.

But the subdivisions themselves change slowly, and many look nothing like the big lots on twisty croissants of yesteryear. The new suburbs are more compact. When the city issued a record number of building permits in 2018, there were more for semi-finished and stacked townhouses than for single-detached models. Some apartment buildings go up.

In more recent suburbs of Ottawa, such as this development in Kanata on the edge of the city line, there are more townhouses and stacked townhouses than single-family homes. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

“Toodle around and you won’t believe what’s out there now,” said Burgoyne.

As for Lecours, she still loves her community in Orléans, she just wants there to be more small community cafes and gardens, and more choice of accommodation for tenants and smaller people.

“If they plan properly, I think it’s okay to grow,” she said. “But it must be done in a way that serves the people. “

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