Making development work for communities, promoting neighbourhood safety, Heritage Day, and more!

The issue of how to promote development that benefits the entire community is a thorny one. On one hand, we are in the midst of a housing crisis, and we don’t have nearly as many homes as we need for a city that is growing.

It is estimated that Ottawa will need to build 145,000 new housing units over the next 10 years to even keep up. We know that intensification is both the environmentally and fiscally wise choice. But on the other hand, so many of us are seeing our neighbourhoods changing – and fast. And that change isn’t always for the better. 

In Centretown, we are seeing a lot of displacement and gentrification. Developers are buying up low-rise buildings and tearing them down. The towers that replace those smaller buildings contain many more homes, but they are generally tiny – lots of bachelors and one-bedrooms. Few developers are building family-sized apartments and the new homes they build are always much more expensive than the ones they replaced. According to new research from Carleton professor Steve Pomeroy, we are losing 31 moderately priced rental homes for every one that we build. 

This is one of the many reasons why I waded into the debate over the last couple weeks about the ethics of voluntary community contributions from developers. Because Centretown is one of the communities that is feeling the genuine pain associated with intensification and high-density development. When a tower gets built, it is often nestled right beside many existing low-rise homes. Construction can take years and residents must cope with the kind of drilling and pile-driving that makes our teeth shake.

The legislative framework imposed on our city by the provincial government has made it harder for us to pay for the things that we all want to see in our neighbourhoods like parks, water fountains, speed bumps and bike lanes. Bill 23 slashed the development fees that the city is allowed to charge, and there is little appetite for high property taxes to compensate.

This is why I think it’s important for councillors to retain the ability to negotiate voluntary community benefit agreements with developers. Because large construction projects can choke up traffic, cause noise pollution and generally inconvenience neighbours for years. And we certainly need more contributions to the city’s affordable housing fund – Pomeroy’s research shows that we are not even close to meeting the scale of our city’s need.

You can hear more of my thoughts on this in the interview I did with CBC’s All in a Day, along with Councillor Sean Devine. And thank you to everyone in the community who reached out to learn more about this issue. As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this and other conversations happening on your block and at City Hall. You can reach me at [email protected].

Warmly,

Ariel

Ariel with Centretown resident Martha Scott, at the Douglas Coldwell Layton Foundation dinner, honouring the late Ed Broadbent

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Celebrating Black History Month in Ottawa: A tribute to African, Caribbean, Black Canadians

Each February, Ottawa proudly embraces Black History Month, transforming the capital into a vibrant hub of cultural exploration and celebration. This annual commemoration invites everyone to delve into the rich heritage, traditions and contributions of African, Caribbean, Black (ACB) Canadians, enhancing awareness and appreciation for their profound impact on the nation. 

With a large number of events scheduled, residents can expect an exciting array of activities that will inspire reflection, dialogue and appreciation for the significant role played by ACB Canadians in shaping the cultural tapestry of Ottawa. 

Coldest Night of the Year

The Coldest Night of the Year is a winterrific family-friendly walk, in support of local charities serving people experiencing hurt, hunger, and homelessness. Join us on February 24, 2024: team up, fundraise, walk, and take a moment to look closer, because it’s cold out there. Learn more and sign up here.

Heritage Day 2024

We are excited to celebrate Heritage Day on Tuesday, February 20! This year’s theme is "Diversity of Heritage: Recognizing the past and celebrating the future."

Come explore the many heritage organizations and groups that make Ottawa’s heritage community like no other! Local historical societies, museums and other associate groups will be set up in Jean Pigott Hall (at City Hall, 170 Laurier West) before and after the Heritage Day ceremony at 12 pm for you to ask questions and plan your next visit! This event is free and open to the public.

Dangerous offender in Centretown

Some of you have written to our office after seeing the warning put out by the Ottawa Police Service about a dangerous offender who is now living in Centretown. This was upsetting news to read, and many residents have expressed concern. Our community liaison officer assures us that this person is living under very strict conditions and is monitored regularly.

If you do witness this person breaking any of his conditions, as was listed on the media release, please do contact the Ottawa Police Service High-Risk Offender Management Unit at 613-236-1222 ext. 4395, or 9-1-1 in case of an emergency. This will lead to an immediate arrest and apprehension. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 or crimestoppers.ca.

Safety in your neighbourhood or building

The Centretown Community Association’s safety and emergency preparedness group has practical advice on how to improve safety, both in the neighbourhood and within buildings.

The group is looking for volunteers to help build Neighbourhood Watch and those living in apartments or condos can explore a program that focuses on how building doorways, foyers and hallways can be enhanced for safety.

For more information, contact: [email protected]

As well, folks can find out what sorts of crimes are happening at what spots in their community, via the police service’s data portal.

Register now for winter activities, March break and summer camps!

Spring activities and before and after school programs online January 30. Aquatics registration is February 13. Recreation, culture and before/after school programs registration is February 15.

Register online here.

Celebrate Winter Walk Month!

Each year, the first Wednesday of February is Winter Walk Day! This year it’s officially on February 7, 2024, and you can choose to celebrate on the day or for the whole month. Walking to school in the winter can be a fun activity for kids, bringing all the benefits of active transportation.

Enjoy the quality time you get to spend with your family as you travel to school together!  Check out this poster for activity ideas to celebrate Winter Walk Month.

Free dental screenings at the Catherine Street Hub

Clients can go to the Hub at 370 Catherine Street for the free Dental Screening Service provided by Ottawa Public Health. Twice monthly they have a registered dental hygienist at The Hub to provide free dental screenings as well as support in accessing dental care and dental health promotion. Please note they do not do any actual dental work at the Hub. This Dental Screening Service is to help clients navigate the system in order to access free dental services in Ottawa and to get information on Dental Health. The Hub office is located at 370 Catherine St. on the first floor.

 The current schedule for OPH Dental screening is:

  • Wednesday February 14 and 28, 1-4:00 pm
  • Wednesday March 13 and 27, 1-4:00 pm

Help maintain the rink at McNabb Park

A small group of Centretown residents have been maintaining the outdoor skating rink at McNabb Park for the last few years on a volunteer basis and need more help to keep it in great shape and expand the skating season. Volunteers are needed to help flood the ice in the late evening, shovel and snow blow after snow falls, and in other creative ways. High School students can earn volunteer hours required for graduation as well!

If this is of interest, please send a message to [email protected] for more information and to get involved!

Complete your Vacant Unit Tax declaration

It’s time for Ottawa homeowners to complete their online Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) forms at ottawa.ca/vut for each residential property they own before the March 21 deadline. A $250 late fee will be applied to all declarations filed after the deadline.

In addition to online declarations, The City has set up declaration options for residents who require accessibility related supports, and for those without access to the internet or digital devices – like computers, tablets and other hand-held devices.

  • Call 613-580-2444 where an agent will help complete your declaration over the phone.
  • Call 613-580-2400 to contact the City using Canada Video Relay Service.
  • The City’s Client Service Centres can provide in-person assistance for completing the declaration. Priority will be given to scheduled appointments. Visit the Client Services website for locations and appointments.

Vehicle idling: city wants to hear from you!

The City of Ottawa is conducting a review of its vehicle Idling Control By-law. This by-law was enacted in 2007 to reduce unnecessary vehicle idling by all drivers in Ottawa with the aim of improving local air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Idling is running a vehicle’s engine when the vehicle is not in motion and when the engine is not operating equipment essential to the basic function of the vehicle. It commonly takes place outside of businesses or residences when waiting to pick someone or something up, when preparing to leave the house or office, or when otherwise being stationary with the engine running.

City Council has now directed staff to undertake a review of this by-law, and we want to hear from you.

Visit the Engage Ottawa page to have your say.

Engage Ottawa: have your say on the new recreation pass proposal

The City of Ottawa offers many recreational services to encourage residents to keep active and healthy. Currently, residents can participate in activities like swimming, skating, weights and cardio, aquafitness and group fitness classes in more than 20 recreation facilities.

To ensure residents are paying fair costs for the services they are accessing, the City is reviewing its model for memberships and admissions. Recreation services can be accessed by paying a drop-in admission fee, by purchasing a membership or by buying a multi-visit pass.

The goal of the new membership and admissions model is to fairly redistribute the costs of recreation services and is not intended to boost revenues. The majority of members would pay a similar rate to what they’re paying now, and some may even see a slight decrease in their fees. There are some membership categories that will see an increase to their fees.

Fill out the Engage Ottawa survey to have your say.

Cold weather resources

The Ottawa Public Health Cold Weather webpage provides information about preventing cold related injuries, such as frostbite, as well as medical emergencies such as hypothermia, and includes links to resources in our community to help people access winter clothing, hot meals and other food, obtain assistance with home heating costs, and find emergency shelter (including transportation to shelter).

The webpage also has an interactive map of places to warm up, including City of Ottawa operated community centres.

These are places throughout the city where people are welcome to go to warm up during the cold. They are open during business hours throughout the year and access is free of charge. Locations included on the map are validated at the beginning of the season.

Residents can call 2-1-1, the Community Navigation of Eastern Ontario, to obtain information about services and locations of drop-in centres, community and health resource centres, food banks and community food programs, and where to obtain winter clothing, and financial assistance for their utilities.

Procedures for 3-1-1 staff related to extreme cold weather are regularly reviewed by OPH subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and consistency in 3-1-1 messaging. In addition to existing procedures, 3-1-1 staff receive up-to-date information via media advisories and public service announcements related to extreme weather to relay to concerned residents.

Who to Call

Our office put together a comprehensive list of community resources, to help in situations where you or a neighbour might be in distress. Feel free to print this out, post on your fridge and share with your neighbours and local businesses.

Latest posts

Shelter crisis update, new heritage designations, downtown revitalization and more

Well, winter is undeniably here. The cold snap has been great for winter sports, including skating on the Rideau Canal (while it lasted!), but my thoughts always turn to people experiencing homelessness in this weather. City staff have been working around the clock to ensure that no one must sleep outdoors in the frigid cold. I have been supporting this work as a member of the Emergency Shelter Crisis Taskforce.

Happy New Year, crisis pilot update, response to recent tickets and VUT declaration time

Happy New Year, crisis pilot update, response to recent tickets and VUT declaration time

Happy New Year! I hope you were able to get some downtime and the ability to connect with friends and loved ones over the last couple of weeks. I am back from a family trip and gearing up for a busy few weeks at City Hall and in the community. While things have been relatively quiet since I last wrote to you, I wanted to update you on a few key issues.

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