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Ottawans Looking for Mix of Intensification and Boundary Expansion to Ensure Housing Affordability


[Ottawa – May 7, 2020] A survey of 770 Ottawa residents reveals that housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable for Ottawa residents. Half of homeowners report they could not afford their current home if they were house shopping for the first time today and few respondents think their children will be able to afford a home. This has left many residents looking for alternative solutions and forty per cent of Ottawa residents would consider commuting 30 minutes to a nearby town in order to buy a home.

It is therefore not surprising that the vast majority of Ottawa residents see housing affordability as a top priority, particularly among low-income households. Residents are, however, divided on how best to approach the issue.

The vast majority of residents – particularly those who reside in Central Ottawa and the Inner Suburbs – are open to intensification to avoid unnecessary boundary expansion. There is, however, a certain ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment evident in the survey results. When the scope of intensification is narrowed to focus on respondents’ respective neighbourhoods, a significant portion of respondents – particularly those who reside outside of the city centre – are averse to increased housing density – especially tall buildings – near where they live.

Overall, results suggest that Ottawa residents are looking for a mix of intensification and boundary expansion to ensure that affordable homes are available to the city’s growing population.


This survey was conducted using EKOS’ unique online research panel, Probit. Probit offers exhaustive coverage of the Canadian population (i.e., Internet, phone, cell phone), random recruitment (in other words, participants are recruited randomly; they do not opt themselves into the panel), and equal probability sampling. All panellists are recruited by telephone using random digit dialling and are confirmed by live interviewers. Unlike opt-in online panels, Probit supports margin of error estimates.

The field dates for this survey are April 15-23, 2020. In total, a random sample of 770 Ottawa residents aged 18 and over responded to the survey online. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The survey was conducted in both English and French.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, gender, age, income, and education). All the data have been statistically weighted to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Ottawa according to Census data.

This survey was commissioned by the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association.

Please click here for a PDF copy of this article.

Please click here for a copy of the questionnaire that was used for this survey.

3 comments to Ottawans Looking for Mix of Intensification and Boundary Expansion to Ensure Housing Affordability

  • Erwin Dreessen

    Mr. Graves,
    How disappointing that asking whether respondents prefer “more tall buildings to avoid boundary expansion” met EKOS’ standards of objectivity. Putting the alternative this way agrees with GOHBA’s perspective but is not a fair expression of the alternatives. Please see Paul Johanis’ paper “We Can Do It” for proof, using the City’s own numbers, that the no-expansion option, in terms of intensification and specifically in terms of “more tall buildings,” is quite manageable and does not in any significant way mean “more tall buildings.”
    A classic case of a biased survey question. I had expected better of EKOS.

  • Jason Kania

    I am disappointed to see that that this survey is biased to such a degree. Your survey questions did not include anything about who should pay the costs for increasing the urban boundary. It is far more expensive to service low density housing than higher density dwellings meaning that city residents will be subsidizing the profits of home builders who build more low density housing requiring additional infrastructure.

    If you had asked these same residents who should pay the costs of new infrastructure, they would not likely have agreed to pay more than those living in newly constructed areas.

  • John Verbaas

    This survey fails to mention that the City of Ottawa currently has the capacity to build 66,000 new dwellings on existing vacant land as part of its current plan and further fails to distinguish that option from what is the current debate in the city which is about further increasing the size of that vacant land.

    As such it leads the interviewee on by not providing them with the full gamut of options that you require them to choose from in your questions.


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