Ottawa Real Estate Board members attend a presentation from Nanos research, outlining the results of the consumer and Realtor surveys.
Ottawa Real Estate Board members attend a presentation from Nanos research, outlining the results of the consumer and Realtor surveys.

There’s an urgent need for affordable and attainable housing options for seniors in the Ottawa area, according to new surveys of Ottawa residents and Realtors. The surveys say municipal policies to address the increasing demand for housing options for elderly residents are needed within the next five years.

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The Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB) recently collaborated with the Ontario Real Estate Association and Nanos Research to conduct the public research. In addition to views on the current housing market’s challenges, the surveys also sought to assess the necessity of creating additional housing options for seniors.

“As Realtors, we heard from our clients that many seniors would prefer to stay in their homes for as long as possible, and many families would choose to have their parents live with them or on their property for as long as feasible,” says OREB president Debra Wright. “However, we also know from experience that there are little to no options which currently exist within the real estate market for this goal to be realized, and that clients are repeatedly asking Realtors to locate affordable senior-friendly options.”

Designed by Nanos Research, a random phone survey of Ottawa residents and an online survey of OREB members found that:

  • 80 per cent of Ottawa residents surveyed are concerned or somewhat concerned about affordability, and 72 per cent are concerned or somewhat concerned about the availability of adequate housing for seniors in Ottawa.
  • Just over one-third of Ottawa residents surveyed said they (or the seniors they make decisions on behalf of) would require a senior-friendly home within the next five years.
  • 56 per cent of the Realtors surveyed said they had difficulty meeting the needs of senior housing (mean score of 7.2 out of 10).

When residents were asked how urgent the priority is for the City of Ottawa to ensure seniors have adequate housing options on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being very urgent, 73 per cent of respondents rated it urgent (mean score of 7.7 out of 10).

In the survey, residents supported easing restrictions for secondary suites and coach houses. Realtors made several recommendations to municipal leaders to make it easier to meet the needs of their clients, which included:

  1. Be more flexible with construction regulations/permits (additions, separate entrances, main floor in-law suites)
  2. Ease up permit fees/provide funding/incentives/grant
  3. Make permits/application process faster/easier
  4. Tax incentives/breaks
  5. Build/allow coach houses

“The city is going to have to get creative. Our seniors deserve to live their golden years in a manner that respects their privacy, independence and allows them to enjoy a lifestyle that befits their many years contributing to our communities,” says Wright. “We hope this research will assist in educating and mobilizing our community leaders on key issues surrounding housing strategies for our seniors in our region and will lead to informed decision making and existing policy improvement.”


  1. The over-arching issue, which realtors should know but often don’t, is that seniors … actually any person who stays in a rental unit in Ontario for more than three years, is systematically wiping out the equity investment of the property owner. I have a saying that I teach in a “landlording”course – One dollar of NOI (“noy”) is twenty dollars of joy (or “Oi” if NOI decreases), assuming a 5% cap rate. For example, a senior moves into, say, a one-bedroom rental unit today and pays $1,000/month (most seniors are looking for $700 or less). Ten years later the happy senior is paying $1,200/month because of rent control but the market is paying $1,500. That $300 difference may seem a reasonable cost for social responsibility BUT $300 x 12 = $3,600/year difference. Multiply by 20 (or divide this “NOI”) by 5% = $72,000 … in lost equity … per senior. A 10-plex full of seniors could lose arguably a million dollars in equity because of failed rent control.

    The market is paying $1,500, not just because of housing shortage and high demand, which is a driving factor for sure, but because operating costs have skyrocketed—government-run electricity up 55% over two years, 20% carbon tax on natural gas, 25 x property tax on apartment buildings versus single family homes, water cost increases (40% over five years), building insurance increased 100% IN THE FIRDT YEAR OF COVID, and so on.

    According to CMHC One in four Canadian will be over the age of 55 within five years and many of them won’t have enough money to see them through “aging in place with dignity” (and within walking distance of all the amenities they require to do so). It’s great that OREB and OREA are jumping on a bandwagon to find a worthy cause like this but polling residents who don’t understand the mechanics of these economics is nice story telling but meaningless to finding a solution. Everyone already knows that there’s a problem.

    OREB and OREA ought to be talking about the hard facts and drilling down into the solutions. The five bullets they cited in this article are uninformed and over-simplistic. It would take a day to explain all the reasons why but you can start with the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and some municipalities discouraging second suites. Add in rent freezes that cost private sector rental investors $2.4 BILLION in lost equity in 2021, and multiple eviction bans that have empowered tenants to live rent free for 10 to 20 months while the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) sorts out their debilitating mess that was created by … the provincial government cutting back on adjudicators four or five years ago. It’s a long list, which Small Landlords Ownership Ontario (SOLO) is presenting to the Province’s lawyers as a discussion set before SOLO pursues a class action against the province.

    • They also become unable to live in unassisted housing and die sooner than the younger generation perpetual renters and the chances they’ll default is likely less.

      Landlords go into the business with eyes wide open, accepting the risks of the tenancy acts and rent restrictions. Its not like they’re not there for them to read and understand prior to becoming a landlord.


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