François’ Response to the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association Candidates Survey

To learn more about the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA), click here. Here is my response to their survey:

Candidate Survey on Growth, Development and Real Estate in Ottawa – BOMA, OREB & GOHBA

Ottawa’s official plan calls for growth to be “directed towards key locations with a mix of housing, shopping, recreation and employment – locations that are easily accessible by transit and that encourage walking and cycling.”

Q1) While a variety of approaches can achieve the objective of mixed-income, mixed-use communities, what tools would you like to see the city use to ensure a mix of residential, commercial, and public space in a new or revitalized community?

I believe that Ottawa needs better planning, so that the objectives of the plans are well known by all parties, city officials, developers alike in order to ensure the required infrastructure is well planned and in place before development takes place.

Recent polling by Nanos Research indicates that of the top financial challenges most municipal governments face, citizens rank infrastructure and transportation as most important. As you may know, Toronto collects a municipal land transfer tax on top of the provincial land transfer tax for each and every sale that involves the transfer of land in order to help pay for priorities like infrastructure and transit. Ottawa REALTORS® and residential and commercial developers know that a municipal land transfer tax would hurt the dream of home ownership and significantly increase the cost of development growth in Ottawa, and in turn affect jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity for businesses in this city.

Q2) Where do you stand on additional taxation powers for the City of Ottawa? How do you think the city should raise revenue to fund its many priorities?

I believe taxes should only be increased to a level that matches inflation rate and only for specific projects that would benefit residents.

A critical part of promoting growth and economic activity in the city is having a smooth, predictable development application and review process.

Q3) What part of Ottawa’s development review process would you point to as successful in servicing the development community while balancing the city’s regulatory obligations? What part of the process could be improved?

I am not familiar enough with Ottawa’s development review process to provide you with an intelligent answer for this question!

REALTORS® and renovators are very concerned that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Ontario is going to have significant impacts on homes as federal legislation permits up to four plants of unlimited height to be grown in private residences. Growing cannabis indoors often involves creating conditions that can lead to the formation of mold and fungus, which can have serious health risks for seniors and young children.

Q4) What do you see as the priorities for Ottawa City Council when it comes to the legalization of cannabis and its impact on residential properties? Are there any particular policy changes that you would support?

The topic of cannabis will be a challenging one at all levels. I believe it would be very difficult for Ottawa to regulate the use of cannabis inside residential properties. Just like smoking now, I believe the use of cannabis indoors will lower the resale value of a property. With regards to priorities for Ottawa City Council, it should be to regulate where the cannabis store can be located, the number per street/area/Ward and the use in public space initially. For the rest, we will have to assess as time goes as there are still too many unknown on the use and federal/provincial regulations.

New neighbourhoods are doing a good job of intensifying – the city had a density target of 34 units per hectare for suburbs which developers and builders have exceeded by nearly 10%. But even mixed-use developments with targeted affordable units are the objects of NIMBY opposition in today’s development climate.

Q5) How would you promote residential intensification across the entire city?

I do not believe that one single policy should apply for the entire City of Ottawa. Residential intensification should have a different approach depending on the project being considered, the location and the access to infrastructure such as bike lanes and public transit.

In Ottawa, the vacancy rate for one-bedroom rental units is 1.4 per cent and 2.1 per cent for two-bedroom units, according to 2017 data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. A healthy rental market requires a minimum vacancy rate of three to five per cent, according to ACTO (Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario)

Q6) What role can municipal governments play in helping the supply of rental units at an affordable rate?

Collaborate with investors and developers to find the best formula for each project, whether it be a tax break or an increase in the number of units, building height, so that the cost of the housing is shared and not solely the responsibility of the investors/developers.

To attract business investment and jobs to Ottawa requires innovation and cooperation between government and private business.

Q7) What is your vision to further position Ottawa as a destination for new or expanding businesses, and what tools would you employ from within municipal government?

My position and part of my campaign platform is to use my membership in the Chamber of Commerce and in the Rotary Club to meet entrepreneurs in other jurisdictions, seek the ones who want to expand their business and show them what Ottawa has to offer: proximity to transports (417, airport, train), LRT to bring employees to work, the high level of education per capita and all the outdoor and green space they and their employees can experience at a very close proximity.

Environmental goals related to development and economic growth are becoming more and more common at the municipal level.

Q8) What environmental goals would you like to see the City adopt and what programs and/or incentives would you support to achieve such goals?

I would like to see better recycling and composting programs. Better educational programs for residents, commercial and industrial enterprises, and better collaboration between the city and businesses to identify attainable objectives for all.