By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, December 2023)
Local federal government properties are on the list to be converted to housing after a November 7 announcement that Canada Lands Company (CLC) would “support the construction” of more than 29,200 homes across Canada over the next six years.
More than 700 homes are slated to be built at the Booth Street Complex, the former Natural Resources Canada site just south of highway 417. And 600 homes are promised at 299 Carling Avenue, which is currently in essence a 3.4-acre parking lot between Bell and Lebreton streets south.
The news release noted that by March 2024, CLC will “help deliver” the properties to build these homes. The release’s vague language led several local media outlets to incorrectly report that the units would be constructed by next spring and that CLC would do the construction. In reality, CLC’s role traditionally involves preparing properties for sale to developers, not direct construction, except for parks or similar amenities.
When one considers the timelines, it’s obvious that even if shovels were in the ground immediately, it would be impossible to build the promised 1310 units at Booth and Carling within four months. CLC confirmed that the sites are now being marketed, and it hopes to sell them by next March, enabling the start of planning, approval processes and construction.
The news release also said the government was “on track to build nearly 30,000 new homes on surplus federal lands by 2029.” But as far as these two local developments are concerned, the date seems irrelevant. There is no path laid out to get homes built by any particular year. In fact, the sites have already been on the market for some time, and how the government will finally manage to sell them by next March is unclear. The Booth Street complex has been available since October 2020 and 299 Carling since November 2022.
The news release also introduced a new minimum affordable-housing target of 20 per cent across CLC projects where municipal requirements are lower or non-existent. For the 1617 homes promised to be built in Ottawa, which includes these two sites as well as the former Canadian Forces Base Rockcliffe, the news release noted that this would include 221 affordable homes. However, this figure represents approximately 13.5 per cent of the homes, not 20 per cent.
This 13.5 per cent is approximately in line with what the City had already been planning for the two developments. When approving the Booth Street site’s rezoning, the City mandated that a minimum of 10 per cent of residential units be affordable. For 299 Carling, the City required a minimum of 15 per cent.
In addition, the numbers in the release don’t match previous plans for the number of units. The Booth Street complex was previously envisaged to include about 1,000 units, not the 710 laid out in the news release. The 299 Carling Design Guidelines suggested approximately 500 units, but the release indicates 600 units. Given the zoning amendment and design guidelines are already approved, the original figures might be more probable.
In more positive news, planning for parks on both sites is ongoing. Construction of the park at the Booth Street Complex is expected to start next summer, and CLC is collaborating with the Algonquins of Ontario for a park-visioning exercise at 299 Carling.
Booth Street complex rendering from south
Source: Canada Lands Company