OTTAWA -- The city of Ottawa declared housing and homelessness a crisis and an emergency today. 

At city council Wednesday, councillors unanimously voted in favour of the move. 

The vote came on the heels of a morning rally that took place outside of city hall, where protesters called for more affordable housing in the capital.

It also comes after Mayor Jim Watson unveiled a "refreshed" plan to address affordable housing and help chronically homeless people in the City of Ottawa.

But the mayor says all three levels of government need to make "urgent investments" in housing and homelessness to make the plan a reality.

The Mayor released an update on the City of Ottawa’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan ahead of today’s Council meeting. Councillor Catherine McKenney will introduce a motion calling on Council to declare a state of emergency over homelessness in the city.

In the memo, Watson says the new goal is to create between 5,700 and 8,500 affordable housing options over the next 10 years. The city will also aim to preserve the existing affordable housing supply.

Watson says “urgent investments” are needed from municipal, provincial and federal governments to increase the affordable housing supply and create new housing subsidies.  Watson adds “without an injection of increased, sustained and long-term funding the Plan will not achieve its ambitious outcomes."

The update of the Housing and Homelessness Plan also sets goals to eliminate unsheltered homelessness, reduce overall homelessness by 25 per cent and reduce the number of new people entering homelessness by 25 per cent. 

The City of Ottawa will spend $109 million on housing and homelessness this year, including funding for social housing, housing subsidies and youth initiatives. Another $15 million was in the 2020 budget for new housing development. All three levels of government have spent over $1.1 billion for operating and capital expenditures on housing and homelessness since 2014.. 

According to the City of Ottawa, here are some of the highlights of the first six years of the 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan

  • Built/acquired 710 affordable housing units in 16 projects
  • Created 1,073 new housing subsidies (rent supplements and housing allowances)
  • Approved 266 new units of affordable housing in 2019
  • Invested $60 million to repair/retrofit social housing communities

The memo, signed by Watson and Councillors Catherine McKenney and Jenna Sudds, says "the refreshed plan is aspirational in nature and requires the commitment of significant new funding from all levels of government in order to be realized. Without an injection of increased, sustained and long-term funding the Plan will not achieve its ambitious outcomes."

It adds the cost of implementing the plan "cannot be absorbed by the municipal property tax base alone."