In the spirit of open dialogue,  I am pleased to post (with his permission) the comments that Pierre Dufresne, Vice-President, Land Development, Tartan Land Development Corporation has sent to the Chairs of the two committees discussing the Growth Management Strategy for Ottawa’s new Official Plan.  I know Pierre from sitting on the Board of CADCHO (a non-profit, affordable housing development organization in Ottawa.)  The perspective presented in his letter broadly reflects the position of the “Status Quo” option mentioned in the report.  When we hear groups like Ecology Ottawa talking about stopping “urban sprawl”…they mean this option.

I believe, however, that Pierre has raised a very legitimate point.  The issue of “housing affordability” is one that has not been discussed enough during this debate.  It is a statistical fact that due to a shortage of land in the City,  housing prices have been increasing rapidly, and that many young families have had to move to the “suburbs” to be able to afford what all of us inside the urban boundary cherish so deeply…a “forever home”.  It is also a matter of data, that almost all of the new growth predicted for Ottawa under the Growth Management Strategy will be as a result of immigration.  As a lawyer who practices in the area of business and economic class immigration, I can tell you that this fact is correct.  These new Canadians, are well educated, young and family orientated.  They did not come here to live in apartment units.  I challenge anyone who doubts this to check on the demographics of Kanata, Barrhaven, Riverside South, or Findley Creek.  However, if we are going to speak about data, then we have to look at the whole picture.  As much as the new growth is from immigration, we also have hundreds of thousands of people within the urban boundary who are in fact aging in place and will eventually be looking to downsize to more appropriate housing during this same period.  Who will be buying their “forever homes”.  Do we in fact need all of the new ground orientated housing that staff says we do?  We need to know this prior to Council’s vote.

May 9, 2020

Councillor Jan Harder, Chair, Planning Committee
Councillor Eli El-Chantiry,Chair, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee

City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Ave. W
Ottawa On
K1P 1J1

Dear Chair Harder and Chair El-Chantiry,

Re:         City of Ottawa Official Plan – Growth Management Strategy

This submission is provided on behalf of Tartan Land Corporation and Tartan Homes with respect to the new City of Ottawa Official Plan growth management strategy. Tartan is supportive of the Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Association submission so will not repeat everything included in that letter. Rather, we would like to reflect upon the lack of housing affordability as being an important factor informing the policies of the growth management strategy.

As you are aware the Ontario Provincial Government passed Bill 108 and the Housing Supply Action Plan in June 2019. The focus of this legislation was addressing the housing affordability crisis in Ontario, and recognized that the most significant factor impacting the increasing cost of housing is the lack of land supply that constrains housing from coming to market. While land supply is a critical factor to meet the housing needs of 400,000 new residents coming to Ottawa in the next 26 years, the proper consideration of the right amount of land to be part of an urban boundary expansion has been compromised by the ideological discussion and tension between fulfilling housing needs by increasing land supply versus greater intensification of existing urban lands.

While we recognize the Planning Department’s recommendation of a balanced solution between a limited boundary expansion and increased intensification targets we feel that this ‘balanced’ approach is not supported by the data and evidence needed to make the optimal decision to meet our future housing needs for the following reasons;

  • An increase in intensification rates are premature given the 50% rate in the existing Official Plan are not attainable;
  • Proper modelling has not been completed to physically demonstrate how 60% of the 196,000 new housing units can be accommodated with intensification;
  • Proper zoning is not contemplated to accommodate the 60% intensification for several years from now. To create certainty it should be incumbent that zoning consistent with the increased intensification needs be completed concurrently;
  • Proper infrastructure analysis has not been completed to determine how much intensification can be supported; and,
  • Without the above we cannot assess whether community and political support of increased intensification target can be attained.

Conversely, limiting the amount of new land supply will severely constrain the ability to meet the growing housing demand, which in turn will continue to significantly inflate the cost of housing for our new residents. Countless studies have demonstrated the impact that constrained land supply has on housing prices, yet they are not properly considered in the development of the recommendation.  Also, there remains an ideologically driven prejudice against suburban growth that improperly influences the urban expansion without proper evaluation and evidence to support the quantity of land being proposed. In particular, the following matters have not been fully considered or assessed to the issues surrounding suburban growth;

  • The debate is often characterized as being between environmental preservation and housing needs. Existing policies and legislation protects the encroachment of urban settlement on environmentally sensitive areas, which policies are supported by the housing industry;
  • Suburban growth is often categorized as being sprawl, along with its impression of its negative connotations. Suburban development within the City of Ottawa boundaries are responsibly planned communities, not sprawl. Constrained land supply will lead to sprawl by making housing choices more affordable in the towns and villages beyond the City of Ottawa boundary. Tartan presently sells houses in the Village of Russell for up to $100,000 cheaper than in its Findlay Creek development;
  • We have been advised that the growth management strategy is modelled after the Places to Grow strategies adopted in the greater Toronto Area. It has been well documented by economists that an insufficient land supply has been a significant cause in the rise of housing prices and housing crisis in the GTA during the past decade.
  • While it takes time for our suburban communities to mature, they have individually become mixed-use areas with employment opportunities and offering all services to meet the needs of their residents. Suburban communities also offer the most affordable housing choices for new home buyers. These factors are not recognized in the growth management strategy.

In short we remained concerned that enough housing supply and choice will not be provided to meet our growing population, which will continue to have the unintended consequence of inflating housing prices. We therefore support the Planning Department’s report status quo option. Otherwise we are concerned that we will only be welcoming our new 400,000 residents if they can afford the policy influenced inflated prices attached to their housing choices or choose to live in a housing choice that may not suit their needs and preferences. Ultimately, we may also be telling that to our children as well.

Yours very truly,

Tartan Land Corporation
Pierre Dufresne
Vice-President, Land Development

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