Priorities? What priorities?

Editorial October 2023

Children who grew up in the Glebe and started school at First Avenue, Mutchmor, Corpus Christi and Glashan, then went off to Glebe Collegiate, Immaculata, Canterbury or Lisgar have deep roots in this neighbourhood. They know it from the inside out. They biked its streets, hung out in its parks after dark. Went to GNAG after-school programs. All their childhood and teen memories are here, for good or ill. When they think of home, we’re it.

And yet, they cannot live here. Houses in the Glebe are now beyond anyone’s reach except for the independently wealthy or well-established lawyers, executives and entrepreneurs. With simple, ordinary houses well into the million-dollar-plus range and with interest rates now boosted to untenable heights, even those who live here would not be able to afford their own house if they didn’t already own it. We see for ourselves that more and more people on the edge in this city are being tipped into homelessness, including children.

There’s something wrong with this picture. No, it’s not a unique Glebe problem – the same thing is happening throughout central Ottawa. But it’s especially acute in the Glebe.

At the same time, the City of Ottawa and City Council are seriously contemplating a half-billion-dollar expenditure on the (yet again) redevelopment of Lansdowne, doubling down on the sports venues and high-rise condos owned by billionaires and shaving more off the little-remaining green space. (Digression: Lansdowne used to be a public space with potential – now it’s a soulless enclave of chain restaurants, dead retail and high-rise buildings overshadowing the two remaining heritage buildings.)

Where are our priorities? As citizens of Ottawa, can’t we do better? Could that very large tax expenditure go towards, say, real affordable housing? Perhaps that’s a naïve thought, I don’t know – but at some point, surely real values must come into play. We know in our hearts what’s important. Shelter is one of the “necessaries of life.”

And if those tax dollars were spent on real housing for real people, would we not feel a lot better about ourselves?

–Liz McKeen

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