Reliance on shelters has grown significantly over the past decade
The number of individuals and families using Ottawa's shelters has come down from a peak in 2012, though there was an uptick for both in 2015. The average length of stay grew steadily from 2006 to 2014. So total number of "bed nights" began rising dramatically in 2006, and has stayed consistently high in recent years.
Longer shelter stays suggest a growing challenge in transitioning homeless people into permanent housing. A modest decline in length of stay in 2015, accompanied by a slight drop in total shelter bed usage, is attributed to steps taken in line with the City’s 2013 Housing and Homelessness Plan, to begin transitioning individuals with long histories in emergency shelters into permanent housing.
Shelters are part of a larger social housing landscape that also includes transitional housing, supportive housing and/or affordable housing. There are about 55 social housing organizations in Ottawa, widely varying 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.
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 over 10,300 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 2011 in Ottawa, 27.7% of single parent families, 25.6% of Inuit, and 30.7% 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:
- Canadian Housing Observer. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2014. Characteristics of household in core housing need, Ottawa, 2011.
- Canadian Housing Observer. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2014. Households in core housing need, Canada, Provinces, Territories and Metropolitan Areas, 1991 - 2011.
- Canadian Housing Observer. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2014. Feature on housing affordability and need.
- Kanellakos, S. Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario (IAH) 2014 extension program. 2015.
- Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) 2010-2014. Reports on Waiting List Surveys. Accessed April 11, 2016.
- Ottawa Neighbourhood Study 2011. Accessed April 11, 2016.
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 put a squeeze on their ability to adequately provide for 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