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Affordable housing

Affordable housing development

Affordable Housing Unit

The Affordable Housing Unit works with both the private and not-for-profit sectors on the development of affordable housing in an effort to advance the objectives of the City’s 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan. The Affordable Housing Unit has four areas of business:

  1. Delivering the Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) for Ontario Program, which may include the following components:
    1. New Affordable Rental Housing
    2. Ontario Renovates Program
    3. Homeownership Down Payment Assistance
  2. Facilitating the development of affordable housing by identifying and negotiating ways to improve housing affordability for low income households, including negotiating and advocating with other levels of government, community agencies, developers and other City departments.
  3. Developing and managing funding and incentive programs to support the development of affordable housing by leveraging other resources, including federal and provincial funding, private funding, land and other equity.
  4. Developing community capacity by brokering partnerships in the community to transfer and share knowledge, skills and expertise, as well as to leverage additional resources to increase the supply of affordable housing.

For more information, email affordablehousingunit@ottawa.ca or contact the Housing Services branch at 613-580-2424 ext. 12300.

Action Ottawa

Program objectives

Action Ottawa is the City’s primary program for increasing the supply of low-income affordable housing in Ottawa. The program is designed to facilitate the development of mixed income communities, including supportive housing, that are well designed and well managed, and built on a scale that ensures integration within the existing neighbourhood.

Action Ottawa combines City incentives with funding from all three levels of government to assist private and non-profit developers in building new affordable rental housing for moderate and low-income households. Action Ottawa bundles fee relief and capital grants and in some cases City-owned land. The overall objective of Action Ottawa is to support the creation of needed affordable housing by making available significant municipal resources and facilitating access to programs provided by other levels of government.

Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario Program

The Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) for Ontario Program provides federal and provincial funding for the creation of affordable housing in Ontario. The IAH program is divided into two funding streams with 5 optional components, three of which are capital programs (Rental Housing, Homeownership Assistance, and Ontario Renovates) and two are operating components (Rent Supplements and Housing Allowances).

In April 2015, City Council approved the capital spending plan for the IAH 2014 Extension Program totalling $48,298,000 over six years (2014 – 2020). In September 2016, City Council approved and updated its IAH capital spending plan resulting from $19,174,000 in additional funding over two years (2016-2018) received from the provincial and federal governments’ Social Infrastructure Fund (SIF) for a total of $67,474,000.

These programs are a continuation of the original IAH program that ran from 2011 to 2015, which provided the City with $25.8 million over four years, in addition to approximately $17 million of City capital. Highlights from the investments made during the 2011 to 2014 term of Council include:

  • A total of 743 new units were approved, completed or funded with priority given to supportive housing for long stay shelter clients, units for larger families, and for households with accessibility requirements.
  • Of these units, 179 were earmarked for seniors, 186 for supportive housing, and 378 for individual households, including families.

For more information on the IAH Program Guidelines, IAH 2014 Extension Program and the SIF IAH, including the capital spending plans, please review the following reports:

Incentives for affordable housing development

Having adequate, affordable and suitable housing is key to building thriving communities. Our ability to reach our full potential through health and well-being, educational achievements, social connections, attachment to the labour market and community identity can all be impacted by the stability or the instability of our housing. The need for affordable housing is therefore, one of the key issues facing our city.

As part of municipal efforts to meet housing needs in our city, Ottawa City Council approved an Affordable Housing Strategy in February 2002. The Strategy covered a wide range of initiatives including:

  • Reducing tax and regulatory barriers including effectively reducing the higher property tax rate for new multi-residential developments,
  • Reducing the costs of development through initiatives such as providing land and grants, and reducing fees and charges,
  • Requesting the Province to increase the duration and number of Rent Supplement units available,
  • Establishing a Housing First policy for surplus City lands and leasing lands for affordable housing projects,
  • Establishing a municipal By-law designating housing as a municipal capital facility, and
  • Establishing a capital development program.

To date, the implementation of the Affordable Housing Strategy has resulted in the creation of the following tools for affordable housing development:

As-of-Right Incentives

Some affordable housing incentives are available to developers "as-of-right". These are incentives that were created through By-laws of Council and include:

  • Reduced property taxes: the New Multi-Residential Tax Class is for all new residential developments of multiple forms with seven units or more and provides a tax rate comparable to the residential class rate for a period of 35 years.
  • Relief from development charges and building permit fees is available for all residential development in the downtown core area of the city.

Non-profit or Charitable Developers have additional as-of-right incentives which provide relief from development charges, planning application fees, building permit fees and parkland levies for the development of affordable housing. Verification of non-profit or charitable status must be presented to the City in order to receive relief.

Discretionary Incentives

The City's Municipal Housing Facilities By-law is a tool that gives Council the ability to grant specific development charge relief and other incentives to developers in exchange for affordable rental housing.

Specific returns are expected:

  • Housing must be guaranteed to be affordable for a minimum of 20 years
  • Rents can be no higher than the CMHC Average Market Rent and a minimum of 60% of the units must be at rents affordable to lower income families
  • Units for lower income households must be rented to tenants drawn from The Social Housing Registry's centralized waiting list

Developers may seek discretionary incentives at any time. Proposals are assessed on merit, achievement of City objectives, and in consideration of available resources. Council must approve proposals of this kind.

Program Application and Approval Incentives

Action Ottawa is the housing program initiated by the City of Ottawa to help private and not-for-profit developers build new affordable rental housing for moderate and low-income households. Action Ottawa bundles as-of-right and discretionary incentives with additional resources of capital grants and, in some cases, City-owned land. These incentives are offered to developers through a competitive bid process.

In addition to the as-of-right and discretionary incentives, the Action Ottawa package includes:

  1. Capital Grants of up to an average of $60,000 per unit (Federal and/or Municipal)
  2. Long-term lease opportunities on City-owned land at nominal rates

In exchange for incentives, the City requires successful applicants to provide affordable rental units for a minimum of 20 years. The rents can be no higher than the CMHC Average Market Rent, as well as 60% of the units must be at rents affordable to lower income families, and these units must be rented to tenants drawn from The Social Housing Registry's centralized waiting list.

Action Ottawa applications are accepted on a proposal call basis only.

How Action Ottawa incentives fit together to make rents affordable:

How Action Ottawa incentives fit together to make rents affordable

As illustrated above, the combination of capital funding, tax relief and relief from municipal fees should enable proponents to reach Average Market Rent levels.

Additional assistance from the City such as land and additional capital funds should allow proponents to offer below market rents.

Financial incentives can also work in "mixed" or "blended" housing projects which contain both full market housing (which benefit from lowered property tax rates for new multi-residential construction), average market rent units and rental housing affordable to lower-income households.

Housing Facilitation

The City of Ottawa's Housing Services branch ("Housing Services") serves as a facilitator for affordable housing development, providing information and advice to private and non-profit housing developers, other City departments and the community at large.

Housing Services will continue to work with affordable housing partners through implementing other aspects of the City's Affordable Housing Strategy, as well as continue to work together to advocate for increased support from other levels of government, which will create much needed affordable housing.

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Affordable Housing - Request for Proposals

The Affordable Housing unit posts notices of Requests for Proposals (RFP) on MERX (link is external).

Please review this site regularly and visit MERX (link is external) for information regarding upcoming RFPs.

For more information about the RFP process, please contact the Affordable Housing program administration at affordablehousingunit@ottawa.ca (link sends e-mail) or 613-580-2424 ext. 12300.

Summer 2017 RFP

For information on the Summer 2017 RFP, consult the following FAQ. 

Summer 2017 RFP Frequently Asked Questions

Re: Section 3.4 Submission Length, Format and Content:  Are the allowable, additional 20 pages intended to be separate at the end of the document, or spread throughout the submission (ie. by expanding the text boxes on the forms)?

The additional pages can be separate and at the end of the document, or can be spread through the submission.

Re: Section 5.6 Letter from Financial Institution or Lender:  Is a letter required if the project will not include financing from a financial institution or lender?

If the project does not include any financing from a financial institution or lender, no letter is required.

Re: Section 5.10 Unit Size and Minimum Unit Count:  The RFP indicates that units cannot exceed the maximum unit sizes listed or be less than the minimum.  What size is “minimum” referring to?

This is a typo, there is no minimum size.  However, all units should be of a size that is functional and comfortable for residents.

Re: Section 6.3 Project Description and Design Concept:  Please clarify the percentage of units that should be visitable.

All proposed buildings containing less than 24 units should be as visitable as practicable, and must meet the minimum requirement for accessible units.  Buildings over 24 units must be 100% visitable and meet the minimum accessibility requirement in order to qualify for funding.

Re:  Form B:  Please clarify what is meant by “For each member of the team (staff and any procured consultants), demonstrate experience and expertise in each of the following”.  Does each team member need to be reflected in all 7 competency categories (ie. each category would have the entire development team referenced)?

No, if a team member does not have experience in certain categories, their name does not need to be reflected in that category/categories. 

If our proposal is rejected, will we be receiving our graded scores with explanations and can we resubmit the same proposal in the next RFP?

No, you will not receive your graded scores, but you are welcome to call the Affordable Housing Unit to discuss the results. You could submit the same proposal for another RFP, but if your proposal was not selected, then likely elements of the proposal should be changed so that it is more competitive.

Would you be able to help quantify the reduced municipal property taxes we would be expecting? 

No, the Affordable Housing Unit is not able to calculate the reduction in property tax. You may use the City of Ottawa Website to estimate your property taxes for proposal using the “new multi-residential tax rate”.   

Are we permitted to perform credit checks and criminal record checks to qualify tenants and select accordingly?

Landlords are not permitted to perform criminal record checks on potential tenants.  A landlord may request credit references and rental history information, or either of them, from a prospective tenant and may request from a prospective tenant authorization to conduct credit checks on the prospective tenant. 

Section 2.2 of the RFP states “provide affordable rental housing that remains affordable and operates in accordance with the City of Ottawa’s Below Market Rent Guidelines for a minimum period of 35 years.” I wanted to ensure that the City of Ottawa’s below market rent guidelines will not decrease arbitrarily over the 35-year term and will increase at the same rate as market rent increases.

The affordable rents are determined by using the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation Average Market Rents as determined in their annual (Fall) Market Rental Report. Unless there is a decrease in average rents across the City as reflected in these statistics, housing providers will not be required to lower rents.

Is it correct that at any time during the 35-year term we can pay back the City for the grant and begin charging market rents? Also, after the 35-year term, should we be anticipating any obstacles to returning our rents to market levels?

If a housing provider chooses to default or exit from their agreement prior to the 35-year term expiring, then all funds provided by the city and registered on title as a mortgage must be repaid in order for the City to discharge its security (mortgage) and allow the provider to exit the agreement. After the 35-year term,      there would not be obstacles to returning units to market rent levels. The agreement will provide for a phase out period during the last 5 years.

60% of the units need to be at 70% AMR. Do you round down? E.g. In a 32-unit project, 19.2 units need to be at the 70% AMR, would you round to 19?

Yes, we would round down provided that weighted average of all funded units does not exceed 80% of the Average Market Rent.

Will there be an information meeting for this RFP?

No.

S. 8.5: Can development consultants be on more than one team? 

Development consultants can be on teams for which they were the successful applicants of a competitive procurement process. 

Can a project assume financing through the new CMHC rental construction financing program? 

No.  You may indicate that you plan to apply to the CMHC financing program, however you should use available / typical mortgage assumptions when preparing your proposed operating budget.

The RFP notes that “Up to a total of $8M in capital funding is available from a new Government of Ontario program entitled Home For Good (HFG).”  Is the HFG money confirmed? 

No, this is only an estimate from City of Ottawa Housing Staff.

Does HFG funding come with operational funding? 

This is currently unknown. However, we request that you provide your operating costs for supportive housing and clearly identify all confirmed and proposed sources of revenue (i.e., client rent payments, charges for food and other services, existing funding sources, requested funding from the City of Ottawa or HFG in order to operate your supportive housing proposal).

S. 6.1 of the RFP indicates that “General contractors are not to be included in a Proponent’s response to this RFP.”  We wanted to clarify: 1) whether the statement in the RFP means that the proponent cannot already have a Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) on their team before the RFP submission, or whether the CM/GC should just not be mentioned in the Proponent Team & Competencies section?; and 2) whether this requirement has any implications on this proponent’s eligibility to submit a proposal in response to this 2017 RFP?

Your first assumption is correct; the proponent cannot already have a CM/GC on their team before the RFP submission.  If a Proponent already has engaged a CM/GC and submits a response to the RFP, that response will be disqualified.

S. 6.1 of the RFP also indicates “If Proponents select to include a development consultant and/or architect as part of their team in the RFP response, the Proponent will be required to show that the team members were selected based on a clearly defined statement of work and a transparent and competitive procurement process…”  Would the proponent for the project described above be deemed to be not eligible to apply for funding in response to this RFP if they did not engage their development consultant or architect through a competitive process?  Again, the proponent has been working on the project for some time now, and engaged their development consultant and architect back in 2014/2015, before these new requirements were set out.

Correct, if a development consultant or architect was not procured through a competitive procurement process, the RFP response would be considered ineligible.  On page 14 of the RFP, there is a stipulation that development consultants need to be selected based on a competitive procurement process.  We have conceptual architectural plans that were prepared for a previous RFP.  Can we submit these plans? The proposal will be accepted; however, should the proposal be successful, you will be required to conduct a competitive procurement process to re-tender for the architect for the project.  

On page 14 of the RFP, there is a stipulation that development consultants need to be selected based on a competitive procurement process.  We have conceptual architectural plans that were prepared for a previous RFP.  Can we submit these plans?

The proposal will be accepted; however, should the proposal be successful, you will be required to conduct a competitive procurement process to re-tender for the architect for the project.    

Page 6 of the RFP document outlines that one bound copy of a complete Application Form should include c) reference forms, however the reference forms are not included in the Application Form, and are excluded from the Checklist of Attachments to complete. Would the City be able to supply the Reference Form? 

The RFP contains an error.  We do not need the reference forms that are referred to on page 6.

Items listed on Form A in the Proposal Submission (10 copies required) are also listed as items that are required in the submission of the Application Form (1 copy required). As such, should the items that are listed on Form A be included in both the Application Form AND the Proposal Submission, or should they only be listed in the Application Form? 

The RFP contains an error.  We only require one copy of the information listed in Form A; therefore, please include the required information only with the Application Form.

Are all items supplemental to the forms listed in the Proposal Submission considered to be part of Appendices, or are they to be included in their corresponding sections in the Proposal Submission? For example, would the Excel spreadsheets and drawings be included in the ‘Project Description and Design Concept’ section, or would these be added to an Appendix for that section? 

RFP requirements for which there are no specific forms provided (e.g. construction project schedule, class D cost estimate, design concepts) are to be included in their corresponding section.  The Excel tables for capital and operating budgets are to be included in the section on Project Viability.

Footnote 4 on page 14 notes that the material is to be submitted as an Appendix to the RFP submission. Page 40 (Form B) also makes mention of an Appendix, but it is not listed in the in the Submission Package section of the RFP on page 6. If Appendices are permitted, should these be included as part of the Proposal Submission (10 copies)?

Footnote 4 refers to documentation of the Proponent’s procurement process for securing consultants for this RFP.   Please provide one copy of this material as an Appendix to the Application Form material.  The asterisk at the bottom of Form B refers to Proponent and Team experience with competitive procurement processes.  For this section, please type the response directly into the appropriate box in Form B.

If items such as the Class D Construction Estimate (Project Viability) or the Proximity to Support Service Networks Map (Project Description and Design Concept) are listed under their corresponding section, are they included in the page count for the maximum submission length (20 pages) or are such items to be included in the Appendices (if permitted) and excluded from the maximum length?

Such items are included in the page count for the maximum submission length.

Re: Section 2.2 Objectives: it states that the proposed building must have a minimum of 3 self-contained dwelling units which contain kitchen and bathroom facilities that are intended for the exclusive use of the tenant of the unit. We are planning on providing all meals in a communal dining room, instead of having tenants cooking in their own units, and providing a microwave and fridge. This is due to the high acuities of the tenants we intend to house. Having tenants access their meals in a community setting helps reduce social isolation and anxiety and provides opportunity for nutritious meals that they may not otherwise have. Considering that we are not planning on having the tenants cook in their own units, would we be required to install stoves in the units? Alternately, in the absence of a stove, would we be required to install plug-ins that would support installing a stove at a later date?

Under the circumstances that you have described, you would not be required to have stoves in the units, however you should plan to install an electrical outlet that would support installing a stove at a later date.

Re: Section 8.9 Confidentiality and Disclosure of Information: we are planning on doing a community consultation during the RFP process, which includes a door to door campaign and a community meeting. We feel that it is important to reach out in the community earlier in the process rather than later, because we know that community members place a high value on being consulted early on in the process and on having access to contact information if they have questions. Based on the information found in this clause, what advise do you have on how we can move forward with a community consultation? What information are we able to share?

The City permits Proponents to hold a typical pre-consultation meeting with local community associations and/or neighbours related to required development applications for the proposed project (i.e., Site Plan Control, Minor Variance Applications etc.).  The subject of such meetings should focus on site development and building design.