Most Ottawa residents want ‘urgent action on homelessness’, Nanos Research poll

With less than a week to go before Ottawa residents vote in the municipal election, a new poll by Nanos Research shows strong support from residents to address homelessness. 

According to the poll, eight in ten residents agree than ending homelessness should be an urgent goal in Ottawa. Nine in ten Ottawa residents support or somewhat support building new affordable housing.  

“This survey by Nanos Research for the Ottawa Mission shows a significant proportion of Ottawans, about 83 per cent, believe that it is urgent to have action on homelessness,” Nik Nanos of Nanos Research said.

“The other thing is, there is a significant amount of support for new affordable housing and Ottawans are very engaged on this issue. They want to hear from local candidates on this, and they are more likely to support candidates that have solutions that fight homelessness and deal with affordable housing.”  

Nanos says that almost two in ten residents are worried or somewhat worried about paying their housing costs next month.

“I think one of the surprisingly things if we look at the long term trend, homelessness and affordability have always been important issues, but the level of urgency is exceptionally high right now,” Nanos said. “I think that speaks to the pressure that many residents are having paying the rent, paying the mortgage or just finding a place to live. It speaks to the need for real concrete action, less talk.” 

The poll also showed that proposing concrete actions to end homelessness has a positive impact on the likelihood that voters will support a candidate.

“Most residents said that if a candidate for municipal council proposed concrete actions to end homelessness and build safe, affordable housing, they would be more likely or somewhat more likely to support these candidates,” Nanos said. 

“I think many Ottawa residents have had enough in terms of homelessness and affordable housing and they want see concrete actions and proposals,” Nanos says. “If you are seeking election either at the ward level or as mayor, you better have some answers and you better be prepared to be asked by residents at the door what your policy is on homelessness and affordable housing.”

Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley adds, “As a foundation for human dignity, all people should have access to safe, appropriate and affordable housing.”

Tilley says he is glad to see voter engagement when it comes to housing and homelessness.

“Ottawa residents are front and centre and concerned about the state of homelessness in our city,” Tilley said. “We didn’t see that in the previous election four years ago, it is at the forefront in this election, so it is nice to see that many people who vote are going to vote for politicians who say they are going to tackle the issue of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in the city.”

In January 2020, Ottawa City Council voted to declare a homelessness emergency in Ottawa. The Ottawa Mission estimated that 210 people are currently sleeping outside. 

Tilley says the Mission has been at or near 100 per cent capacity every night. The issues have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are dealing with challenges of being a homeless shelter during unprecedented times.  We are often the last house on the block for people who no where else to turn, people who suffer from mental health or addiction issues.”

Each of the leading candidates for mayor have including affordable housing and addressing homelessness in their platforms. 

Candidate Mark Sutcliffe says he will build 1,000 affordable housing units a year. 

Candidate Catherine McKenney wants to end chronic homelessness in one term through supportive housing and investment in housing allowances. 

As part of candidate Bob Chiarelli’s platform, he wants to retrofit empty offices, for example at Tunney’s Pasture, into affordable units.  

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