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Creating affordable housing units in Ottawa through new community bond 

3 MIN READ

The City of Ottawa loses 31 affordable housing units for every new one built. 

Many people across our region are already struggling with their mental health and the rising cost of living. At United Way, we know that when we remove the stress that comes with meeting basic needs like shelter, people can focus on finding the right job for their skillset and planning a bright future. 

That’s why we are thrilled to be investing $100,000 in the Ottawa Community Land Trust’s (OCLT) Housing Forever Bond. 

We joined the OCLT, alongside other early investors such as the Lowertown Community Resource Centre and the Sandy Hill Housing Co-operative at a launch event for the bond in Centretown on May 21, 2024. Ottawa City Councilors Ariel Troster and Laine Johnson were also there to show their support for this innovative way for the community to come together and immediately help reduce poverty. 

This social finance tool, which has been vetted in other Canadian cities but is new to Ottawa, aims to help preserve and build new affordable and deeply affordable housing units in the city.  

It is also a great example of how we continue to build community wealth. 

The OCLT is aiming to raise $1.72 million to refinance the acquisition of its current property and establish a revolving fund to purchase at least two additional multi-unit, affordable housing properties. 

The land trust currently owns a six-unit property on Kirkwood Avenue. 

The OCLT promises to lease its properties to Ottawa’s experienced non-profit and cooperative housing providers and community-focused property managers, placing them under ‘community ownership,’ forever.   

Leaning into community wealth building

When we buy local, when we build inclusive workplaces, when we hire from underrepresented groups in the labour market, and most importantly, when we work together, we can reduce inequities for marginalized groups, repair relationships, and rebuild systems that create prosperity. 

We believe community wealth building is one of the key tools we can use to move the mark towards stronger, healthier communities where everyone can thrive. 

Over the past few years, we have been working with anchor institutions and service providers to build our community’s capacity to use community wealth building principles as a tool for poverty reduction. 

We have worked with Buy Social Canada on the beginnings of a local community wealth building plan and provided funding to social enterprises like Operation Come Home’s FoodWorks and Causeway Work Centre’s Krackers Katering. We have also newly invested in the Centre for Social Enterprise Development (CSED)’s Social Procurement Acceleration Initiative, building on our years-long partnership with CSED. 

This investment is close to our hearts

The Housing Forever Bond is not only great for our community, but it holds a special place in the hearts of everyone at United Way East Ontario, as the late Ed Wolkowycki (our former Chief Operations Officer) was instrumental in connecting us with the OCLT to ensure that we would be one of the first investors in this bond.  

Ed was a champion for our community wealth building work. He was also a proponent of using social finance tools to make a difference in our communities. And most of all, he understood the importance of a permanent home in someone’s journey toward building a better life for themselves and their families.   

We are proud of our involvement in the OCLT’s initiative, and we know Ed would be too. 

Continuing to advocate for affordable housing

Social finance tools like the OCLT’s Housing Forever Bond are gaining momentum as ways communities can come together to effect change on major issues such as the housing crisis. 

As this crisis continues to affect millions of Canadians, we continue our conversations with leaders at all levels of government to advocate for poverty reduction strategies and affordable housing initiatives. 

We know that by giving folks in need stable and secure, long-term housing, we remove barriers to opportunity.  

Everyone deserves to build the life they want for themselves and their families. 

Learn more about the Ottawa Community Land Trust here. 

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