Housing for the chronically homeless at 289 Carling

by Sue Stefko

The site of future housing for the chronically homeless at 289 Carling Avenue. Photo: Sue Stefco

The property at 289 Carling was transferred on March 21, 2018 from the federal government to the City of Ottawa, moving the supportive housing project one step closer to fruition.

Councillor Chernushenko held a town hall with residents from the Glebe Annex, Dow’s Lake and Glebe Community associations on April 12 to help explain next steps. Saide Sayah, the program manager for the city’s Affordable Housing Unit, conducted the presentation and was also on hand to answer questions, of which there were many.

A recurring question was that of definitions. The project was referred to as supportive housing at times, and at others, housing for the chronically homeless. Sayah clarified that it was planned to be housing for the chronically homeless and the goal is to provide permanent stable, supported housing to those who have been chronically or episodically homeless for six months or more. It’s expected that the clientele would be drawn from the more than a thousand people who currently use the city’s shelters every night.

The actual clientele will not be known until after the winning bid is selected. It could be those with disabilities, mental health issues, addictions or a variety of other issues that would require ongoing support. Because of this support, the project is also referred to as supportive housing, as opposed to simply low-income, subsidized or affordable housing as seen in Ottawa Community Housing or Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC) models. Exactly what supports would be required would ultimately depend on the clientele but could include personal support workers, case managers, community development coordinators (who help organize social events and outings), nurse practitioners or meal providers.

The number of residents proposed remains somewhere between 40 and 60, most of whom would be living in studio- or bachelor-type apartments. While previously a maximum height of six storeys had been discussed, Sayah confirmed that the zoning actually allows for nine storeys. Regardless of the height, he informed the crowd of more than 40 people that 289 Carling Avenue is a city-designated “design priority area.” This means that the project would be reviewed for its “contribution to an enhanced pedestrian environment” and must conform to the “distinct character and unique opportunities of the area.”

The city expects to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) in April calling for bids on the property from not-for-profit supportive housing providers. The RFP will close in the fall. The city will consider a number of factors in its deliberation to select the winning bid, including the organization’s history, stability, financial viability, architect and builder, proposed site plan and service model. Environmental remediation of the site, followed by construction of the building, is expected to start next year, likely in the summer of 2019. It’s expected that the development would be occupied by approximately 2021.

Although a not-for-profit services provider, not the city itself, would run the project, that provider must sign an agreement with the city and remain accountable for running the project for 35 years. For its part, the city will provide ongoing funding for the operation of the project but will ensure that the agreed-upon clientele is being served, that there is enough staff to provide adequate support and that the site is well managed overall.

Reaction to the presentation was mixed. A number of local residents are relieved that this project will be managed more carefully than a typical affordable housing building and for a minimum of 35 years. Others remain concerned about neighbourhood safety and property values.

Whatever the residents’ feelings, one thing is clear: the proposed housing for the homeless development is coming to this neighbourhood. The Glebe Annex Community Association intends to remain involved throughout the process and will work with the selected bidder from day one to establish a relationship, have our concerns heard and ensure that this development fits into the community as seamlessly as possible.

Sue Stefko is president of the Glebe Annex Community Association.

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