The City of Ottawa has launched a Solutions Lab to increase the amount of affordable housing in the nation’s capital. Through the Affordable Housing Hackathon, the City wants to increase supply by removing barriers and creating opportunities for innovation in land use planning.
The idea is that doing so will allow the private and non-profit sectors to more easily meet the needs of the community. The Hackathon will be a rare opportunity for private industry, the City, non-profits, community members and others to work together to identify solutions.
Key Findings / Key Goals
Build partnerships between the City of Ottawa, developers, the non-profit housing industry and other stakeholders
Find innovative solutions to help increase the amount of affordable housing in Ottawa
Use the solutions developed to inform the City’s new Official Plan
Project scope and expected outcomes
The Affordable Housing Hackathon will start as a partnership between the City of Ottawa, the non-profit housing industry and developers. The partners will then widen the partnership, recruiting participants from the broader community.
This Solutions Lab’s innovative approach is to give participants a realistic scenario of a potential housing project. They then have to propose actual developments (including project characteristics such as built form, design concept and unit mix) as practical, real-world solutions.
A 5-phase approach to finding affordable housing solutions
The Hackathon will go through 5 phases:
- Definition: Partners will outline the scope, expectations and constraints of the whole project and develop an overall plan. They’ll also reach out to their networks to recruit other participants and conduct a benchmarking exercise to gather best practices from other municipalities.
- Discovery: Participants will form teams made up of students, community representatives, development industry representatives and potentially others, like planners or architects. Development: Teams will design strategies that provide solutions to the specific scenario they’ve been given. The scenario will be a hypothetical piece of land, with various elements that the team needs to consider in developing it. Teams’ strategies must propose a development solution that could work given their budget, time, affordability factors, etc.
- Delivery: Teams present their solutions to a panel of expert judges who will evaluate and rank them and provide feedback.
- Roadmap: Teams incorporate the feedback provided by the judges and form final recommendations for implementation. These final recommendations will be included in a report that other municipalities can use to implement the solutions themselves.
Real-world implementation of affordable housing solutions
The City and its partners hope to inspire creativity by creating the right mix of participants. This will help generate innovative solutions to a persistent and complex challenge for cities. Also, by working on a real-world scenario, participants will gain insight into the trade-offs and challenges facing the development of affordable housing.
The Hackathon will wrap up in time for the most successful ideas to help shape the City of Ottawa’s new Official Plan. This offers an exciting opportunity for participants to see their ideas implemented in real life.
Project Team: City of Ottawa
Elizabeth Whyte Elizabeth.Whyte@Ottawa.ca
Project Collaborators / Partners:
- Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association
- Ottawa Social Housing Network
- SHS Consulting