Anglican Diocese of Ottawa creates affordable housing in Bells Corners and looks at other church sites

Hollyer House, as the four-story mixed-use building has been named, will house 35 residential units.

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It’s the kind of housing intensification that people are queuing to celebrate, and what Ottawans in need of affordable housing outside the city center are desperately seeking.

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At a location in Bells Corners that used to be a two-story rectory, politicians and officials from the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa gathered Monday to celebrate the impending completion of an affordable housing project.

Hollyer House, as the four-story mixed-use building has been named, will be home to 35 residential units, as well as a community hall, food cabinet and workspace for the Western Ottawa Community Resource Center, which had offices in the rectory before demolition.

Ten of the rental units will be reserved for women transferring from the shelter at local providers Cornerstone and Chrysalis House. The rest will be rented below market rent, targeting those on the city’s waiting list for social housing — which may include some special units for families transitioning from emergency shelters — and mid-market rent units, for which applications are expected to open this summer.

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“There is diversity, in many good ways,” said the appropriate Reverend Shane Parker, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, of the community that wants to create these kinds of mixed-affordable projects.

Project partner Christ Church Bells Corners is located next door to the development, and the Rector, the Reverend Kathryn Otley, said her parishioners are “very excited about people coming to live there and what they can do to support them.”

Religious affiliation will not affect who is eligible to live in Hollyer House, she said, and tenant selection will be done remotely. But given the high demand for affordable housing, not least that there will be many people outside the city center that Hollyer House cannot help.

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“I’ve had calls over the past two years… hundreds of calls from desperate people,” Otley said.

While the project’s scheduled completion this fall will meet only a fraction of the need, it’s part of a larger movement of faith groups in Canada to transform or build on their real estate to create affordable housing.

Reverend Canon PJ Hobbs, director general of community ministries for the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, said they are currently considering an affordable housing project on the grounds of the Julian of Norwich Anglican Church on Merivale Road in partnership with the Multifaith Housing Initiative, as well as to complement double the number of units at Ellwood House in Alta Vista.

In Monday’s announcement highlighting federal and municipal funding for the Hollyer House project, Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen said he has told more faith organizations: “There is a place for you in the National Housing Strategy if you join us. want to work together to take a lot of the real estate you have and turn it into affordable housing.”

However, he is under pressure to bring more dollars that do not have to be paid back to that partnership.

Part of the federal investment of more than $6.6 million in Hollyer House is a forgivable loan. Such funding is invaluable for affordable housing projects by nonprofit entities, Parker said.

“Loans are problematic because you somehow have to factor that into the overall calculation. … Subsidies are what is needed.”

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