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August 26th - Growth in Ottawa slow but steady, Committee hears

The City’s Planning Committee received the annual development report for 2021 indicating that Ottawa’s economy is continuing to grow.

Ottawa’s employment improved as the number of employed residents increased by 5.7 per cent, returning to near pre-pandemic levels. Ottawa had 588,700 employed residents and the unemployment rate lowered from 7.4 to 6.3 per cent. All sectors showed growth in 2021 except for retail, which reported a loss of 3,000 employed residents.

Ottawa exceeded its intensification targets with a reported rate of 44.9 per cent from mid-2020 to mid-2021. The three-year average rate from mid-2018 was 49.4 per cent.

Average housing resale prices rose by 22 per cent in 2021, to just under $646,000. The rental market remains tight as well, with vacancy rates decreasing from 3.9 per cent in 2020 to 3.4 per cent in 2021, and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment increasing by 2.2 per cent to $1,550.

While housing affordability remains a concern, there are positive signs of increasing supply. The number of rental row and apartment units increased in 2021, and among completed apartment developments, 70 per cent (nearly 7,500 apartments) were for rental rather than ownership. There were also more than 9,400 new housing starts in 2021, an increase of 1.8 per cent over the previous year and the most starts in a single year since 2001.

The Province recently adopted legislation that allows municipalities to require that developers contribute funding for community projects for residential and mixed-use developments. The Committee today approved a new policy and by-law to implement a citywide community benefits charge – a new tool under the provincial Planning Act to help municipalities pay for higher density in communities with new developments. The charge is consistent with the City’s approach of ensuring that growth pays for growth, to ensure it is not a burden on taxpayers.

The report approved today outlines how the charge would be calculated. It would ensure continued financial support for community-oriented projects for all residential and mixed-use buildings that are five storeys or higher and that include at least 10 new residential dwelling units. The charge would be collected on projects citywide, with payment required before a building permit could be issued. The charge cannot exceed four per cent of the land value where the development is proposed.

A couple of larger developments in Kanata are closer to construction, including a new residential tower on March Road, to be integrated with the Brookstreet Hotel. The Committee approved Official Plan and zoning amendments to permit a 30-storey mixed use development on a surface parking lot associated with the hotel. The site would include an extension to the existing hotel ballroom but would be primarily a separate building with 253 apartments, and a restaurant on the top floor.

Also in Kanata, the Committee approved a proposal from Nokia Canada to relocate their existing office complex on Terry Fox Drive to the southern end of the site and to redevelop the remaining lands. The overall concept includes an office building that has a low-rise base with four-storey and 10-storey towers extending above. The plan also shows 11 potential future towers, between 13 and 29 storeys each, with and podiums between six and eight storeys, as well as park space and an urban plaza.

The Committee also approved Official Plan and zoning amendments to permit a 29-storey residential high-rise and a 27-storey mixed-use building southwest of the Bank Street and Riverside Drive North. The proposal would introduce new commercial space along Bank Street, and a public plaza proposed at the northeast corner of the property would offer amenity space to the entire community. The applicant has expressed interest in an agreement with the City to address issues of concern among area residents, including housing affordability.

Recommendations from today’s meeting will rise to Council on Wednesday, August 31.

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