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Statement on Motion to Declare an Emergency Regarding Homelessness in Ottawa

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Councillor McKenney has recently tabled a notice of motion to City Council to declare a housing emergency. We urge members of the public to sign the Councillor McKenney’s petition at www.housingemergencyottawa.ca.

Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC) serves a diverse community with complex needs in west-central Ottawa. In the West Centretown portion of our service area 71% of residents are renters, spending 44% of their income on housing. With an average monthly rent of $925 for a studio apartment in West Centretown, the renter would need an income of about $54,000. With a city-wide vacancy rate of 1.6% and 44% of residents in the area earning an income of less than $40,000/year, it is clear that finding livable and affordable housing is becoming increasingly difficult in our community.

This is all within the current Ottawa context of 12,100 households on the social housing waiting list, a 6.5% increase in emergency shelter use and 8000 unique individuals staying in shelters in the last year. These numbers do not include those sleeping outside in harsh conditions.

Safe and affordable housing is a key prerequisite for promoting health and preventing illness, as well as building healthy and inclusive communities. When limited affordable housing options are available, people end up living in poorer quality housing or experiencing homelessness, exposing them to additional health risks and increased barriers to other factors important to health.

The state of homelessness and housing in Ottawa is clearly an emergency situation and the City of Ottawa cannot solve it alone. SWCHC supports the upcoming motion and urges all levels of government to work together to address the situation.