Reliance on shelters has grown significantly over the past decade
The number of individuals and families using Ottawa’s shelters had come down from a peak in 2012, but there was a noticeable increase for both in 2017. The average length of stay grew steadily from 2006 to 2017. The total number of “bed nights” began rising dramatically in 2006 and had a sharp uptick in 2017.
Shelters are part of a larger social-housing landscape that also includes transitional housing, supportive housing and/or affordable housing. There are about 52 independent non-profit social-housing organizations in Ottawa, varying widely in size and mandate.
Note that the numbers shown in this graphic do not include shelters for women fleeing abuse. The information in the context statement on social housing organizations comes mainly from ChamplainHealthLine.ca, supplemented by the Ottawa Community Foundation's in-house database. The data used to develop the graphic was provided by the Homelessness Programs & Shelter Services Unit, Housing Services Branch, City of Ottawa. The following source was also consulted:
- Alliance to End Homelessness 2014. Annual Report Card. Accessed April 11, 2016.
- Homeless Hub. City of Ottawa 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan and Progress Report (2014-2017 ). March 2018.
There is high unmet demand for affordable housing
Most of the affordable-housing supply in Ottawa is rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units within not-for-profit developments that are specifically built and operated to support affordability. Affordable housing can also be provided by the private sector or be under cooperative ownership.
The RGI waiting list includes those whose current housing is unaffordable or inadequate, and those who are homeless. At nearly 10,600 households, the list is the longest since 2004. And there are many more Ottawa households living in unaffordable or inadequate housing (too small or in need of major repair) that have not registered on the RGI waiting list. In 2016 in Ottawa, 23.2% of single parent families, 29.3% of Inuit, and 31.8% of recent immigrants lived in unaffordable or inadequate housing.
Ottawa’s low vacancy rate contributes to affordability challenges.
The average number of social and affordable housing units available per 1,000 people comes from the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study. The comment in the context statement on vacancy rates reflects the widely accepted view that a balanced vacancy rate is 3% -- i.e., three of every 100 rental units are unoccupied and available. Vacancy rates below 3% correlate with upward pressure on rents. See, for example, the 2012 report from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities No Vacancy: Trends in Rental Housing in Canada.
Other sources are:
- The State of Housing in Ottawa: Affordable for Who? ACORN Canada (August 2018)
- Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. 2016 Waiting Lists Survey Report, Toronto ON.
- Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Rental Market Survey. October 2018
- Canadian Housing Observer. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Characteristics of household in core housing need, Ottawa, 2016. Accessed October 2019
The amount spent on shelter puts a large percentage of households at risk
Especially in the lower-income neighbourhoods of the city, a high proportion of households spend over 30% of their income on shelter. When low-income households spend high proportions of their income on shelter, it can be challenging to adequately afford other necessities, such as food.
Research indicates that households spending 50% or more on shelter are at greater risk of becoming homeless.
The low income measure used for this graphic is the Low-income measure after tax (LIM-AT). The LIM-AT is 50% of the median after-tax income of households, but attributed down to the individual level. First, household after-tax income per individual is calculated to account for households of varying sizes. The LIM-AT is then 50% of the median of all these incomes.
Data for this graphic comes from the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study. Sources for information in the context statement are show below.
Home ownership is increasing despite rising prices
Ottawa housing prices have climbed dramatically over the past decade, but have remained consistently lower than the Ontario and Canadian averages.
Despite the price increases, home ownership rates in Ottawa have grown, and are on par with the national average.
The proportion of homeowners carrying a mortgage has gone down, but the median mortgage amount has increased from $111,400 in 1999 to $165,000 in 2012.
The information on price and ownership rates is from the Canadian Housing Observer. MLS Average Residential Price is calculated annually and is a composite of all residential prices. Information on mortgage debt is from Statistics Canada’s Survey on Financial Security, CANSIM Table 205-0002 and reflects provincial averages for all family units (economic unit of 2 persons or more) and all age groups.
- Canadian Housing Observer 2014. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation feature on housing affordability and need. 2014
- Statistics Canada. CANSIM Table 205-0002