Open in full screen mode
The federal government announced in November that additional units will be built at the Village des Riverains, located in Ottawa on former National Defense land.
A few weeks ago, the Trudeau government proudly announced that nearly 30,000 new housing units would be built on surplus federal government land by 2029. But how can it achieve this in what is, after all, a fairly short time frame?
In reality, some of these lands have been vacant for at least a decade or two. The lengthy process of consultations to see if other public entities or Indigenous groups are interested has already taken place.
For example, the federal announcement promised 307 new housing units at Village des Riverains, a site that formerly housed the former Rockliffe military base in Ottawa.
However, the Armed Forces base was decommissioned in 1994 – almost 30 years ago – and it was not until 2011 that the CLC finally acquired it, after a round of federal consultations. Infrastructure work, to build sewers and new streets, only began in 2016, again after a long period of community discussions and planning with the City. The first houses only began to appear in 2017. It is far from a rapid process.
When we get bogged down in endless administrative procedures, it shows a lack of efficiency of the government apparatus. And we need to remedy that as quickly as possible.
A quote from Pierre Paul-Hus, Conservative MP for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
The Conservative Party is also counting on the conversion of 15% of federal buildings to compensate for the lack of housing, among other things by building affordable units. Mr. Paul-Hus does not specify, however, what specific aspect of the current process he would change to speed up construction starts, but speaks of removing bureaucratic barriers.
We have to put an end to this, the consultations. Now is not the time to consult. We have a housing crisis.
A quote from Denis Trudel, MP and spokesperson for the Bloc Québécois on housing
Another administrative challenge: the Trudeau government does not have a central list that compiles the total number of empty federal buildings. Each ministry is responsible for its own building stock. It is therefore difficult to predict the number of housing units that can be built from federal properties when we do not even know how many of them are currently vacant.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, the federal Minister of Housing, Sean Fraser, recognizes, on the one hand, that there needs to be a centralized list of empty federal properties and, on the other hand , that the consultation process in place, although necessary, is too long and must be reviewed.
Open in full screen mode
Minister Sean Fraser says he is studying different strategies to speed up the consultation process when federal property is deemed surplus and could be transformed into housing.
He specifies Besides, transforming federal property into housing is not as easy as we think.
However, his colleague Jean-Yves Duclos, who is head of the Ministry of Public Services and Supply, suggested the opposite recently, at a press briefing. According to him, several empty government buildings are quite easily, in certain cases, convertible into affordable housing and residences.
An idea that the spokesperson qualifies of the Quebec Construction Association, Guillaume Houle, if only from a logistical or structural point of view.
An office tower was not built to be a housing tower.
A quote from Guillaume Houle, spokesperson for the Quebec Construction Association
Indeed, he explains, in a federal building, toilets are often grouped in one place, whereas they are needed in each unit in an apartment building. Electricity needs are not the same. Ventilation, which must be at an almost industrial level in an office building, does not need to be as prevalent in residential homes.
In short, the changes to be made are so important and complex that, often, he explains, the most profitable thing for a developer is to literally demolish the building and build a new one.
So, if vacant federal properties, often well located in the heart of cities, represent an attractive solution to the housing crisis for politicians, it is clear that with current processes, the transformation of a building or even an empty plot of land cannot be done overnight.
With the collaboration of Marie Chabot-Johnson
Laurence Martin (View profile)Laurence MartinFollow