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The Damascene of Somerset


As he puts the fur-lined leather hat down on the table he explains how it used to be a beaver. “It was run over” he says, “and then they turned it into a hat.” It is clear that he is very excited to have it. It’s cold outside, November in Ottawa, and he isn’t used to this weather. The hat, the weather and Ottawa are new to him. That’s because he’s only been in the city, in Canada, for 13 months. Before that he was in Jordan. And five years ago, Fadi Sakbani was in Syria.

Sakbani is a refugee. He left his native Syria because his house and his work place were both threatened by the ongoing destruction of the Syrian Civil War. He lost his job as a language teacher and couldn’t make a living. He fled into neighbouring Jordan. Now he sits in an Ottawa coffee shop on Bank Street explaining how he came to Canada.

It was in Jordan where he met Grace Chapman, a Canadian who was teaching English in Amman. Sakbani showed Chapman around the school on her first day. They bonded as they both arrived at the school early every morning and would talk over coffee. They became friends. Eventually they were teaching a course together and Sakbani would join Chapman and her now-husband for dinner at their house.

Fadi Sakbani sits in a coffee shop on Bank Street, Ottawa. A mere 13 months ago he was a refugee in Jordan.
Nathaniel Dove

“He was someone I could always rely on, and as a new teacher that’s an incredible resource to have,” said Chapman via email from Japan, where she now lives and works as an English teacher.

But life in Jordan was difficult for Sakbani. It “got really tough for Syrians,” he says. It was easy to find a job—Sakbani is fluent in English—but as a refugee he was not allowed to work fulltime, even with a work permit.

“You have no social rights there, you can’t get healthcare, you can’t get education, so I just decided to leave,” says Sakbani. He began exploring options. He was awarded a scholarship to Estonia but declined when he realized he would have to commit to returning to Syria after he finished his degree. So in January 2016 Sakbani reached out to Chapman about coming to Canada. She agreed to help.

“As I had e-mailed a family friend and my mom, a thread of e-mails began of us putting together the puzzle pieces and figuring out what we needed,” she said. According to the government’s rules on privately sponsoring a refugee Chapman would need to assemble five people to be sponsors. Those that agreed would need to prove that they could raise the money necessary to support a refugee—collectively about $13 000, according to the website—and that they would all be in Ottawa, where Sakbani would live.

As Chapman was in Kuwait at the time she was ineligible to be a sponsor. But she was still able to organize a group of family friends and her parents to bring Sakbani to Canada.

And his immigration was quick—ten months between the message to Chapman to his plane landing in Canada. Sakbani says that the process usually takes two to three years. He knows he is lucky.

“I think it’s one of the most successful cases that I’ve witnessed here in Canada, because I know a lot of Syrians who were sponsored by the government, by communities or even individuals, private groups, and they’re really grateful but they were not as lucky as me… I was spoiled. I’m still being spoiled.”

Sakbani is an exception to many trends. Not only was the speed of his case so remarkable but he didn’t end up in the areas in Ottawa where most Arab immigrants in the past five years have settled, Osgoode and Versant in Gatineau. Sakbani thinks that so many people live in these areas because they want to be surrounded by people who share the same language and culture.

An interactive map showing where the majority of Arab immigrants to Ottawa now live. The darker the blue colour, the more immigrants reside in that area. Click on the map to explore the data. All data from Statistics Canada


“If I had a family… I would have probably had to live in a community that has more people from my own culture so my family would be able to have friends, because they speak zero English.” He says that not everyone is open to other cultures.

Instead he lived with one of his sponsors in the Glebe for his first year in the country. He now lives with a roommate, another refugee, in Centretown. He has a part-time job and he attends Algonquin College for computer engineering.

He has come very far and accomplished a lot since leaving his home country. His journey has been very different from those of other Syrians.

“Most of my friends just got on a boat together, like all my friends in Syria… got on the same boat, in the Mediterranean, from Turkey—illegally, of course.” This is in 2013, when there were massive amounts of people leaving Syria.

“People where just throwing themselves in the sea…hoping to get picked up near the Greek shores. They were lucky to survive.”

As the cup of tea he is drinking is emptied he starts to look out the window, into the cold street down which he will have to walk to get home. “How can people survive here? I know that I need a couple more winters to get used to it, I’m not looking forward to it. It’s the first snow this year and I’m not happy. I know what’s coming and I’m not looking forward to it,” he says, laughing.

He is wearing a sweatshirt with “Quebec” written on it, the kind that you find in a souvenir shop. And he is smiling. He likes it here. Even in the short time that he has been in the country he says that “Ottawa feels like home.”

Increases in Visible Minorities Most Evident in Ottawa Suburbia Census Shows


Canada’s capital has seen over a 17% increase in visible minorities residing in various areas all over the city according to a according to an analysis of census data resleased by Statistics Canada this year, however this growth isn’t apparent everywhere.

The data revealed that of the neighborhoods sprawled across the city, the areas that appeared to have gained most of this influx were the West and South-West suburbs of Ottawa including Gloucester, Barrhaven, South-Nepean and Kanata.

The map shows which areas of the city visible minority growth is concentrated in. The darker spaces on the map represent the areas in which there were the most increases seen in visible minorities and the lighter areas show no increase or a decrease in those identifying as a visible minority.

It is quite obvious to see this increase according to 23 year-old Emma Brennen, who’s family has lived in a small-division of the Ottawa suburb Kanata for her entire.

This area of Ottawa’s west-end encompasses many amenities making it a good place for a family home says Brennen, she and her younger sister went to the public school that is walking distance from their home.

“There are new developments and condos going up almost everyday it seems like,” says Brennen. “There are always new people and houses flipping on every block, our most recent neighbours are from Kuwait.”

According to Statistics Canada, of the over 30,000 immigrants that chose to call Ottawa home from 2011-2016, most of them, approximately 7,000 came from West Central Asia and the Middle East.

Although it is apparent that Ottawa has seen an increase in visible minorities overall, this is not the case for all neighbourhoods. Areas like the Glebe appearing to see a decrease in the number of individuals identifying as visible minorities according to the census data.

Anna Pearson and her family immigrated to Canada from England in March 1998 to their 3-story home on Powell Street. Since then they have seen very few new faces on their block.

Anna Pearson, Photo Courtesy of Anna Pearson

“The couple that lives to the right of us are both in their mid 70s and have been here their entire life, the family across the street inherited their house from family, it’s been in the family for years,” Pearson says.

“The house for sale at the end of the street been up for sale for over a year now,” she says, “It’s appraised at over 1 million dollars and it’s beautiful but no one comes to the open houses.”

The colossal price tag may be a factor as to why see less visible minorities in neighbourhoods of Ottawa like the Glebe according to Dan Moloughey, broker of record at Ottawa Urban Reality Inc. He says that for most first-time buyers or people just moving into the country, Glebe home prices may seem incredibly high and unattainable.

Dan Moloughey, Broker of Record at Ottawa Urban Reality Inc. Photo Courtesy of Ottawa Urban Reality Inc. Brokerage

According to an analysis by the Ottawa Real Estate Board, the average sale price of a residential non-condo home in Ottawa in January 2015 was $370,442 and for the same month and property type in the Glebe, the average home went for $617,000 on the real estate market.

Why would one choose to pay almost double for a home in the Glebe?

“The fact is that some people make more money than others and another financial factor is that not every Glebe homeowner paid the prices we’ve seen in the last 15 years” says Moloughey, “It wasn’t that long ago there was less of a discrepancy between the prices of homes in the core of Ottawa and those further out…those who bought in the 1990s or earlier have surely done well!”

Immigrants Flocking to Outer Ottawa Areas


Although Ottawa is becoming more diverse, its population is also getting older. The rate of visible minorities went up by 17 per cent from the last census, according to an analysis done by Tamara Spitzer. The demand for services and affordable housing for both seniors and immigrants has never been higher, especially in Ottawa’s periphery. 

Many immigrants are choosing to live outside of Ottawa’s downtown core in areas like West-Carleton, Goulbourn and Osgoode. Suburbs have always been a popular choice for immigrants coming to Ottawa, however, the latest data from StatsCan, shows an influx of visible minorities stretching beyond the suburbs and into rural areas. 

While diversity is generally increasing everywhere in Ottawa, it’s most visible outside the downtown core. Communities behind the Macdonald-Cartier Airport, such as Gloucester, Piperville and Ramsayville, which share a census tract, have the highest spike of visible minorities, increasing by more than four per cent.

Bruce Lindsay, President of the Riverside South Community Association (Lindsay, 2017)

“We’ve been neglected for years,” says Bruce Lindsay, a retiree and president of the Riverside South Community Association. 

“We have limited facilities, we should be building more infrastructure to accommodate more facilities around,” he says.

The community of Riverside South is a particular case. It’s a small suburban region, behind the airport, which shares the same census tract as Gloucester, Piperville and Ramsayville who had the highest rise in visible minorities between the 2011 and the 2016 census.

“We’re seeing significant population growth,” says Lindsay, who’s been living in Riverside South for the past nine years.

As the greater Ottawa area becomes more populated, there is an increased need for initiatives to create accessible and affordable housing. 

Louise Yazdani, another retiree and member of the Riverside South Community Association, added that “Almost 25 per cent of the community’s population identified the mother tongue as something other than English.”

The community is putting its efforts into the living situation of its diverse ageing population, advocating for more services, affordable housing and accessible housing.

In Riverside South, there are no apartment buildings and unless you want to live in someone’s basement, seniors are going to have to deal with, “buying a $500,000 bungalow.”

“The community is in need of rentals of one-or-two-thousand dollars,” says Lindsay, who acts as a consultant for community design planners. “It’s in need of high-rises and a community library.”

Along with infrastructure comes programming. Amenities aren’t keeping up with growth say Lindsay and Yazdani who are advocating that the success of the neighbourhood depends on access to health care, community drop-in services and community aid.  

With the Light Rail Confederation Line, which set to open in 2018, heading out of the city centre into eastern, western and southern communities, peripheral communities are projected to become even larger in terms of their population. There are already plans for extending the Confederation Line, further south, past Ottawa’s airport by 2021. Its final southbound stop will lead right into Riverside South, making it an attractive place for those that are looking to conveniently get downtown, but without the steep cost of downtown living.

By that time, Lindsay says he hopes that the Riverside South, which currently has a population of about 15,000 people, “will be like a downtown itself.”

More recent immigrants settling in Barrhaven than any other area in Ottawa

Ali Niaz, his wife, and two kids are among the hundreds of recent immigrants moving into Barrhaven, the ward that saw the highest increase in newcomers. /Salma Mahgoub

The number of recent immigrants within a suburb in Ottawa’s southwest end doubled between 2011-16, beating a city-wide trend that saw a decrease in newcomers, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada’s census on immigration and ethnocultural diversity.

Several neighbourhoods in Barrhaven are becoming home to a growing population of recent immigrants, climbing from 300 to 705 newcomers in five years—that’s the highest increase the city has seen.

Among the newcomers moving in the area are Ali Niaz and his family, who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 2013. They moved around Ontario for a few years before finally settling in Barrhaven last year.

“It’s a family friendly neighbourhood,” says Niaz, sitting in the living room of his rented townhome, located a convenient walking distance away from a market place.

The father of three says he and his wife were happy to find a school in the area that offers a special learning program from their 6-year-old son who has difficulty speaking, something they did not find in their old neighbourhood in the city’s urban region.

There are lots of opportunities for families with children in Barrhaven, says Alison Stirling, an assistant speaking on behalf of the Barrhaven city councillor, who was unavailable for comment. Stirling says the ward is home to more schools by far than any other in the city, in addition to recreation centres, sports associations, and greenspaces.

But the amenities available are not the only factors that Niaz and his family find attractive about the area.

“There is so much diversity here,” says Niaz, who is applying for a master’s degree in accounting at Carleton University. “My neighbours next door, they are French, the others are English. Down the street we have a neighbour from Libya and another from India, too. Our neighbours are very friendly.”

Barrhaven has been a hot bed for development in decent years, says Stirling. “Of course that’s causing an increase in population and immigration as well.”

At the same time that Barrhaven welcomes a growing population of newcomers, the city is seeing an overall decline in recent immigrants by 2,350 people.

The map below illustrates the number of newcomers who have settled within each census tract across the city, with red areas representing a decline, beige areas indicating no change, and the lighter to darker shades of orange showing the lowest to highest growth areas.

In the latest census, a recent immigrant refers to someone who first obtained their landed immigrant or permanent resident status between January 2011 and May 2016.

Ottawa saw an overall decline in its recent immigrant population between 2011-16.
Source: Statistics Canada

The general decline may have to do with federal policies from the previous government that “put all kinds of impediments” for bringing new immigrants, says Caroline Andrews, steering committee chair of the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, which works to attract and integrate immigrants in the city.

Although the number of recent immigrants in Ottawa has fallen, this does not mean there are fewer newcomers arriving, says Andrews. She cites the “huge community effort” in bringing Syrian refugees, who would not be counted as recent immigrants in this census data.

The Niaz couple, who have just passed their citizenship test this week, are looking forward to becoming new Canadians and buying a new home of their own, hoping to stay in Barrhaven.

“It all happened so fast that it came as a surprise to us. We’re very excited,” says Niaz.

Ottawa’s west-end most attractive location for recent immigrants


Shahroze Akram and his family have lived in Ottawa’s west-end for the last seven years. Photo: Submitted by Akram.

A shopping mall, public schools, and a community centre all within a few steps from each other – it’s what a small area in Ottawa’s west-end has to offer, and newcomers seem to be catching on.

A small residential area adjacent to Bayshore Mall, Ottawa’s second-largest shopping centre, has seen the greatest increase in newcomers, with over 1,100 recent immigrants calling the small division of Ottawa’s west-end home, according to an analysis of data provided by Statistics Canada.

The area mostly encompasses a collection of apartment buildings and townhomes under the umbrella of Accora Village, which is owned by Ferguslea Properties Limited. The properties are scattered around Woodridge Crescent – where Shahroze Akram and his family have lived for the last seven years.

“At the time [of us moving], Bayshore was mainly popular because there were a lot of our community that used to live here,” Akram, who is Pakistani-Canadian, said. “Naturally you want to move somewhere where there is a lot of your community, but there was also ease of access to a lot of things.”

Akram said having a grocery store, a shopping mall, and a major bus station nearby makes his neighbourhood a convenient place to live for any newcomer. But the area is particularly attractive for the Muslim community, he said.

A significant Muslim population has lived in the area for years, Akram said, making it a safe haven for other Muslims who wish to find a place in Ottawa to call home. The nearest mosque, he added, is only a four-minute car ride away.

“Life here is just a little bit easier to integrate into Ottawa overall,” he said.

An interactive map showing the number of recent immigrants that settled into Ottawa, using data compiled from Statistics Canada’s 2016 census. The areas in yellow signify the hotspots for the largest number of recent immigrants, while the areas in pink signify the lowest. View larger map

Basia Mair, the settlement counsellor at Ottawa-Carleton Immigrant Services Organization, said the Accora Village area has always been a hotspot for newcomers, mainly due to word-of-mouth.

“[Newcomers] hear good things about the place … Some people recommend it to their friends if they are happy and their home is at a reasonable price,” Mair said.

Tina Fisher, spokesperson for Accora Village, said via email that the company does not gather data on the background of their residents, but their properties “are a community of diverse residents, from many backgrounds and demographics.”

As for average cost of rental, Fisher said Accora Village’s “price point is not the lowest in the marketplace,” reflecting a higher lifestyle and service offerings.

According to the Village’s website, average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home is $1,500 to $1,700 a month. Most of these larger-family homes are currently occupied, with a waitlist system currently set in place for those who wish to move-in.

Mair said cost of rent is the bottom-line for any immigrant family wishing to get settled in the city. And while Accora Village is attracting the largest amount of newcomers, Mair said other pockets within the city have seen significant increases as well, mainly in Kanata and Merivale.

The data is in line with Mair’s comments, showing an increase of more than 600 recent immigrants settling further east in Kanata, and more than 530 settling inwards into the city near Merivale.

But for Akram, while his home in Accora Village isn’t considered the most affordable, his family’s bottom-line has always been a sense of community they aren’t able to find elsewhere in the city.

He added this sentiment is echoed by the new neighbours he meets regularly, who are now choosing to live in the rental area long term, as opposed to paying monthly mortgage and moving elsewhere.

“They consider [this area] a safer community, because they have a lot of their people here,” Akram said.

Single-landlord community attracts recent immigrants


Above: The rental community of Accora Village lies just north of Bayshore Mall in the west end of Ottawa.

A collection of apartment towers and townhouses in the west end of Ottawa was the top pick for immigrants looking for a place to live in the city between 2011 and 2016, according to an analysis of census data from Statistics Canada.

More than 1,100 recent immigrants lived in the area tucked between Bayshore Mall and the Ottawa River, which includes the rental community of Accora Village and a handful of neighbouring buildings, far more than any other area in the city.

The majority of those immigrants are tenants of Ferguslea Properties Ltd., the developer that owns Accora Village. Long-time resident Mete Pamir says that while the neighbourhood is attractive for newcomers settling in Ottawa, having a single landlord presents some challenges.

Pamir moved into the community 17 years ago after immigrating from Turkey. Since then, he’s dedicated a lot of time to his neighbourhood, and is the coordinator of the community oven in Bayshore Park, a plot of green space at the centre of Accora Village.

Mete Pamir immigrated to Accora Village 17 years ago from Turkey, and is the coordinator of the Bayshore community oven.

“This is, in many ways, the heart of the neighbourhood,” Pamir says as he stands in the park, gesturing at the children who file out of the nearby school. As the oven coordinator, he meets hundreds of Accora Village residents at “community bakes” where the public is invited to share bread, pizza, and other baked goods fresh from the oven.

Nearby Bayshore Mall, a local public and Catholic school, and a new outdoor rink built by the Ottawa Senators Foundation are all reasons Pamir suggests immigrants are drawn to Accora Village. However, he says many newcomers are professionals working in the tech sector who leave the rental community in favour of homeownership after a few years.

“People don’t live here very long,” Pamir says. As a result, he says there’s a “disconnect” between Ferguslea and its tenants.

Until a few years ago, the community of Accora Village was known as “Bayshore,” but it was rebranded in 2011. Since then, a number of buildings in the neighbourhood have undergone major renovations and Pamir says he’s noticed changes in the branding of the community.

“The bulk of the residents here are newcomers,” he says. “But the image that Accora projects in their marketing is all white, very upper class.”

Pamir says he worries this will have an upward pressure on rents, and he criticises the city for taking a “hands off” approach to resolving housing issues in the community.

Census tracts are visualized based on the number of recent immigrants, according to the 2016 Canadian census. Clicking on the census tract will reveal the number of recent immigrants in the area in 2016 and 2011, as well as the percentage of houses in the area considered “not suitable” in 2016 and 2011. Black lines indicated Ottawa municipal ward boundaries. (Census tracts are small areas in metropolitan areas with between about 2,500 and 8,000 people, defined by Statistics Canada.) 

Census data shows that Accora Village has one of the highest rates of dwellings that are unsuitable according to the National Occupancy Standard. This sets the standard for the number of people who should be living in a residence based on the number of bedrooms.

In 2016, nearly 22 per cent of dwellings in the community were deemed unsuitable, far higher than the Ottawa-wide average of just over four per cent.

“Crowding pressure is certainly felt in [Accora Village],” admits Bay Ward city councillor Mark Taylor. However, he says that’s a reflection of the composition of families who are immigrating to Canada, rather than an issue specific to the community.

“There are a lot of new Canadian families who are bringing multiple children, and our housing stock was really never built for that,” Taylor explains.

Because so many of his constituents live in Ferguslea-owned properties, Taylor says he tries to “walk a fine line” between addressing concerns from constituents while navigating away from landlord-tenant issues.

“They view it very much as their neighbourhood and they want to keep it in good shape,” he says.

A representative from Ferguslea declined to be interviewed for this story. In an email, Tina Fisher, director of communications and marketing, said Accora Village “follows all health, safety, housing and maintenance standards including the City of Ottawa’s Occupancy Bylaw.”

Housing affordability problems rise in Ottawa


Suzanne Le, executive director of the Multifaith Housing Initiative (MHI), points at the plans of a recently completed development. As Ottawa struggles to keep up with affordable housing demands, not-for-profit providers such as MHI become increasingly important. Photo by Jordan Omstead

Nearly 9,000 more Ottawa households have a housing affordability problem than five years ago, according to an analysis of recent census data.

Defined by Statistics Canada, an affordability problem is when a household spends more than 30 per cent of its income on shelter. The number of houses in the Ottawa-Gatineau region hitting the 30 per cent mark broke 120,000 in 2016, an 8 per cent rise over 2011.

“When you drive around the city, it would never occur to most people that there is a housing crisis going on, but there is,” says Suzanne Le, the executive director of the Multifaith Housing Initiative (MHI). MHI is a not-for-profit charitable housing provider in Ottawa.

Households in Ottawa-Gatineau Region Spending More Than 30% of Income on Shelter Costs

The map displays the number of houses in each Ottawa-Gatineau census tract that spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The darker the colour, the higher the number. The lighter the colour, the lower the number. Use the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ to zoom, and click on the arrow in the top left of the frame for the legend and more details. Source: StatsCan Census 2016. 

According to Le, people spending more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter in Ottawa are disproportionately from low-income backgrounds. As housing becomes less affordable to those residents, they will be forced to rely on the city’s strained social housing stock.

As of 2016, over 10,000 households are registered on the waitlist for social housing, with families making up roughly a third of the list.

As the city struggles to keep up with the demand for subsidized housing, not-for-profit providers such as MHI will have to step up, according to Le.

In 2014, the City of Ottawa partnered with MHI to build a $20-million affordable housing community in Barrhaven, or ‘The Haven’ as the development is commonly known. Le gestures at the plans on her office wall as she recalls the morning in January when the social housing registry began to process applications for the 98-unit community.

By the time the registry opened at 6 a.m., the lineup wrapped around the building as people braved temperatures of minus 23 degrees celsius.

It was the registry’s single busiest day in 19 years, according to Le.

“You’re looking around at parents with anxious looks on their face, and I knew none of them were going to get a housing offer because by the time 9 a.m. hit they had already processed well over 100 applications,” Le says. “That’s the situation we’re at.”

Suzanne Le is the executive director of the Multifaith Housing Initiative, a not-for-profit charitable affordable housing provider in Ottawa. Photo by Jordan Omstead

A person earning minimum wage in Ottawa would spend 41 per cent of their income on the average market bachelor apartment, according to a recent report from Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness. Someone on Ontario Works social assistance would be spending 115 per cent of their income on the same apartment.

Anissa Grant was on social assistance when she got the letter from MHI confirming her place at The Haven. She spent six years on the waitlist hoping to upsize from her one-bedroom apartment owned by Ottawa Community Housing, which she shared with her husband and three-year-old daughter.

“It was tough because my daughter grew up to walk and run in tight, sharp corners. She’d get injured a lot,” she says.

The lack of affordable housing is not only an issue in Ottawa. In Toronto, the waitlist stands at over 90,000 households. For every household that moves into a subsidized unit, another eight applications are received by the city.

As construction at The Haven neared completion in the spring, Grant says she would drive by to check in on her soon-to-be home, which at the time was just a skeleton of itself.

“I would walk up the makeshift construction ramp and take peeks inside the home and try to envision what was what,” she says.

Anissa Grant was on the social housing waiting list for 6 years before moving into ‘The Haven’. Photo by Jordan Omstead

As Grant looks back on her time in the one-bedroom apartment, she walks through her airy living room towards the window, her daughter’s toys arranged against the wall.

She says MHI offered her the house overlooking the playground, which will be done in time for summer.

Young families flocking to Ottawa suburb despite costs of living


By Jasmine Law

According to an analysis of housing data released on Oct. 25 by Statistics Canada, 40 per cent of home owners in a community more than 20km southwest of Ottawa spend more than a third of their income on property costs. This South Barrhaven neighbourhood, called Chapman Mills, has attracted young individuals and families to move there for its amenities despite its costs of living, leading one real estate agent to call it the “ideal place to live.”

These property costs can include mortgage payments, property taxes, condominium fees, as well as costs for electricity, heat, water and other municipal services.

Silvana Sicoli, an Ottawa-based real estate agent, says that the southern Barrhaven area is appealing because of its quick development and numerous amenities, whereas northern Barrhaven is much older and without newer features.

From 2011 to 2016: Which area spends more of their income on housing? View larger map
Source: Statistics Canada.

Steven Bui and his family can attest – they are more than happy to pay the costs of living in the area. The family has lived in Chapman Mills for 11 years in two different houses. As he walks down his street lined with polished houses and manicured lawns, he says him and his family fall into the category of those who spend at least a third of their earnings on their house, but that it’s worth the costs.

“The area is really attractive for a number of reasons,” he says, as he gestures to the park and school nearby, which is full of parents with their kids. “It’s clean and safe. It’s super family friendly and has everything you could need.”

Steven Bui, a longtime Chapman Mills resident. Picture by Jasmine Law.

More people are spending a larger fraction of their paycheques to live in Chapman Mills. Five years ago, the percentage of people in Chapman Mills who spent more than a third of their income on their property was just at 17 per cent. That’s a 130% increase since 2011, one of the highest differences in all of the greater Ottawa area, according to the analysis of Statistics Canada data.

“I think people who move here know what they’re looking for, and that is the high quality of life that you can get in this area,” says Bui.

Sicoli says that this increase may also be a result of the area attracting singles and couples who want to own property but can’t afford the high prices in Ottawa’s bustling downtown neighbourhoods. It can average about $450,000 for a single-family home there versus about $350,000 in southern Barrhaven, she says. They see Chapman Mills as a place that’s ideal to invest and buy property in.

“Since they’re young their incomes may not be significant, so they end up spending a larger portion of their paycheques towards their home,” she says. Many people also move to places ideal for children if they’re looking to start a family. This is one of Chapman Mill’s most attractive features.

Bui says he’s witnessed a lot of young families move to the area over the past few years, which he credits to the development of new parks and schools.

In 2014, the Minto Recreation Complex opened its doors to residents of Chapman Mills. Source: Raymond Group.

Michael Qaqish, the city councillor for the ward, says the City has worked hard to implement these amenities as southern Barrhaven is one of Ottawa’s fastest growing neighbourhoods. In 2014, the city invested $60 million to bring residents the Minto Recreation Complex, and construction began just this year on a “Bus Rapid Transit” corridor.

“The Complex has proven to be very popular with the young families moving into the area,” says Qaqish. “We’ve also added new features like tennis courts, splash pads and children’s play areas to existing local parks.”

As Sicoli notes, people don’t mind spending more of their income on their property if the area has a lot to offer.

Ottawa renters struggle with price increases


Two years ago, Jordan Harding remembers waiting for an apartment in the Glebe. He was told rent would be $1,375 per month. Six months later when it became available, he said the rent had increased to $1,750, almost 30 per cent more.

Harding isn’t the only one to notice dramatic rent increases in Ottawa. Across the city and its surrounding areas, rent has been crawling – and in some places leaping – up.

On average, rent in Ottawa has increased 14.2 per cent from 2011 to 2016, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada’s 2016 census data. Areas in Gloucester, Nepean and Alta Vista have seen increases higher than 50 per cent.

There are several factors that can contribute to rent increases, said Anne-Marie Shaker, senior analyst with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The corporation reports on housing statistics across the country, and Shaker wrote the report on the 2016 rental market in Ottawa.

Jordan Harding rents a house in Ottawa’s west end, paying more every year he says. | Photo by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin

According to Shaker, renovations to existing buildings and completions of new ones are two main factors causing dramatic rent increases. The newer units and buildings have more amenities, so landlords can charge higher rent. In areas like the Glebe, where few buildings are being constructed, renovations are a more likely factor driving up rent prices.

Ontario’s rental prices are controlled by the province. Existing tenants can only have their rent increased every 12 months, and only by around two per cent. The number varies year by year depending on the market, but hovers around two per cent. New tenants can be charged what the landlords ask, but can only have their rent increased after 12 months in the unit.

Harding decided not to take the Glebe apartment and found a two-bedroom house in Ottawa’s west end, near Nepean.

It’s an old wooden house – the kind that creaks when the heat comes on – that costs him $1,850 per month, excluding utilities. According to data from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation on completed rental units in Ottawa, Nepean saw one of the hightest growths in new rental units from 2011 to 2016.

These new units, according to Shaker, are a factor that drive up rent prices for the surrounding buildings, like Harding’s.

“It’s not reasonable at all,” said Harding, a website developer who works primarily from home, stacking three monitors, speakers and two servers on his kitchen table. “I’ve rented three-bedroom penthouses 10 years ago in Ottawa for $1,050.”

Renters would be hard-pressed to find many apartments at that price anywhere in Ottawa now, with average rent crawling up to $1,440 in 2016 according to the census data.

Some areas of Ottawa saw increases in rent as high as 87 per cent. That’s more than 17 per cent per year, significantly above Ontario’s rent increase guidelines which hover around two per cent.


Peter Dazé, another long-time Ottawa renter, said he has seen an increase every year for 25 years, although it’s rarely more than the two per cent guideline.

“If I didn’t get an increase, I would think something was wrong,” said Dazé from his office at Public Services and Procurement Canada. “I expect an increase, always, always, always.”

He admitted that such increases can pose challenges. “Some years, I’ve gotten rent increases, but my salary did not go up during those years,” he said. “So it causes some grief, some stress.”

Jordan Harding, a website developer, created to help renters know more about their units. | Photo by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin

It was that stress that inspired Harding to create a website, It’s a portal for renters across Canada to share information about their unit, like cost of rent.

“It’s just good for people to know what they’re getting themselves into,” said Harding. He said knowing the previous tenant’s rent could be “a good bargaining chip” in lowering rent prices.

Harding is set to move back to the Glebe next month, into a two-bedroom apartment for $2,500. While he said it’s way more than he’d like to pay in rent, it’s still cheaper than buying it.

Featured photo: New buildings can drive up the rent of the surrounding buildings, says Anne-Marie Shaker with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. | Photo by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin

Live-in Caregiver Program still cause for Filipino growth in Ottawa


Ottawa’s Filipino population has seen a 20 per cent increase between 2011 and 2016 according to an analysis of Statistics Canada census tracts data.

The statistic is reflective of the country’s overall Filipino population growth, which has increased by 25 per cent over the same period.

The map below shows the Ottawa census tracts. The dark colours represent the areas with the most Filipinos in 2016. Clicking inside the census tract boundaries produces a pop-up box with the populations for 2011 and 2016, along with the percent change.

Luisa Veronis a social geographer from the University of Ottawa says Canada’s Filipino population has been thriving since 2006, and that large metropolitan areas are “main gateways of entry-point” for immigrants and often reflect these trends.

She says, “Canada because of its immigration policy, specifically the Live-in Caregiver Program, has been a favoured destination in part because it used to provide a fairly secure path to permanent residence.”

The federal government offered the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) to foreign workers looking for employment as eldercare, childcare or special needs providers. The program closed in November 2014.

Veronis attributes the growth to LCP applicants but also to their extended family members. Caregivers become eligible to sponsor family members after working in Canada after some time.

Veronis says some caregivers experience long periods of separation from their families. She says, “Particularly women were separated from their families five to eight years, which is a tremendous amount of time considering they leave their own children behind to come here and take care of Canadian children.”

Rudio with her parents in the Philippines. (Provided)

For Angelle Rudio, a single Filipino immigrant, her experience was a little different since she was not leaving much family behind when she first came to Canada in 2006. At 22, she was sponsored through the LCP by her cousin to care for her two young children in Ottawa. She says at the time of her arrival the LCP was booming.

After working for a year under her cousin, Rudio applied for her permanent residency because she knew she wanted to stay in Ottawa.

She says, “I chose Ottawa because it’s hard to come in this country and you don’t have family and you don’t know anybody. Especially if you’re an immigrant and you have to adjust to the language and adjust to culture.”

Rudio adds: “Here in Canada even if you start as a nanny, you have a chance to progress your life. It’s not like you’re gonna be a nanny forever…It’s just a stepping stone.”

Veronis says, “Filipinos are generally great workers and a lot of professionals are very well educated and their English tends to be stronger than other immigrant groups.” She adds their integration into Canadian society is often “pretty smooth”.

Rudio received a university-level education in communications back home, but found herself taking on lower-level jobs at Tim Horton’s and A&W in order to pay for a nursing degree.

Ten years later, Rudio now lives in Elmvale, Ottawa’s south-end neighbourhood in the Alta Vista ward. She lives with her cousin who also immigrated through the LCP and works with her as a personal support worker at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre, a nearby health care facility for seniors.

Rudio pictured far right with church group in Ottawa. (Provided)

Rudio says she misses home and visits every few years, but says having family in Ottawa and being an active member in her church helped her feel comfortable living abroad.

She says, “You miss your culture, you miss your food, you miss your language… I want to connect with people so I go to a community where they can relate with me as a person.”

She adds, “I’m lucky to have found that close to my home.”