The Key to Solving Homelessness | Mathieu Fleury | TEDxOttawa


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The power of a key to unlock the potential for a modern solution to the homelessness challenge. Hear about a vision with a key as the solution. A key that is affordable and positive for vulnerable residents. Follow Mathieu on Twitter @MathieuFleury Mathieu was born and raised in Ottawa. In University he studied Human Kinetics, getting a Masters from the University of Ottawa with a diverse background in sports policy, project management, and health promotion. He was recently elected to his my third term as City Councillor for the best community in our City – Rideau-Vanier. In his role, he actively represents three distinct communities: Lowertown, Sandy Hill, and Vanier. In his 9th year on City Council, each year, Mathieu has sat on Community and Protective Services Committee which deals with the City’s housing and homelessness issues. As Chair of the Board for Ottawa Community Housing and Councillor for a Ward affected by homelessness, housing is top of mind for Mathieu. OCH is the City’s largest landlord with more than 15 000 units which have become a true mix of the diversity that we find in Ottawa today. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at <br> <h3>Auto Generated Captions</h3>

I have this key like many of you around
the room you have a similar key but this
is my key your key like mine opens the
door to your home where you can enjoy
your space your kitchen your bedroom
I believe this key is a right I believe
that this key can solve homelessness far
too many in Ottawa live at motels or at
shelters if you live at a motel you
didn’t have a choice to live there I’m
compelled to speak up for those without
a voice who are desperately awaiting for
a key to their home as Canada’s capital
city Ottawa’s faced with many challenges
when it comes to poverty criminality and
housing affordability close to 2,000
residents every night sleep in motels
and hotels many will be staying in these
conditions for months to years I
represent three distinct neighborhoods
Lowertown Sandy Hill and Vani where the
three large shelters as well as the
majority of family motel rooms are used
by the city I believe the city can do
much better and that starts with a
housing vision last year the city spent
30 million dollars to ensure people
didn’t sleep on our streets don’t get me
wrong I’m not asking us to abandon the
current model but is setting the goal of
simply having people not sleeping on the
streets enough I believe in a
transformative vision that is at the
tips of our fingers and it starts with
believing in the power of the key but
what is homelessness many of you will
have this image of a single man single
woman sleeping
on the side of a building in the city’s
core that might fit the typical
definition but being homeless is much
broader if I live at a shelter I am
homeless I don’t have my key to my own
unit as you can see by the graph behind
me the shelter use is worrisome as we
keep doing the same thing over and over
and our costs keep increasing of an
outdated model
Ottawa’s a well-off city we have low
unemployment rate good support services
the average household income is quite
high and we rank in the world’s top
cities for our quality of life yet some
are poor and the way we plan to help
them is by putting them in temporary
shelters and motels the key is an
afterthought yet to open that door you
need that key let me give you an example
if I go to the doctor’s and a doctor
gives me a prescription then I go to the
pharmacy imagine if I didn’t know when I
could get that medication it’s a bit
like giving you a cast for a foot when
all you needed was a good pair of shoes
I met with a young mom of three kids
under the age of 10 upon her arrival in
Ottawa the city put her up in a motel
she was quite happy at the beginning
because it was quick she needed
emergency accomodation however a year
after still living at that motel
she felt abandoned living in a small
space with two bedrooms a small bathroom
no kitchen that wasn’t a place she could
call home the city spent a hundred and
ten dollars a night to pay for the owner
of that motel for her to be able to stay
in that unit that’s three thousand three
hundred dollars a month for this one
family to live in temporary
accommodations in 2018 we had close to
330 families living at motels in
temporary accommodation and that cost
the city close to 16 million dollars
that’s one six million dollars for
temporary accommodations in Ottawa it
bedroom is around $1,500 a three-bedroom
is around $2,100 according to PadMapper
a popular website imagine if we had
given our trust and our rent to that mom
how quickly she could have lived her and
her family could have lived a normal
life giving her 2,100 would have meant
she could have found rental
accommodations but here’s the challenge
in Ottawa we have low vacancy I met with
a student recently who was living for
the first time our out of the University
campus and the student was sharing with
me how hard it was to find a rental unit
well that’s because in Ottawa the rental
rates have been near zero over the last
ten years your options are limited you
either go with the slumlord or you pay
very expensive price for a decent unit
low vacancy low inventory low capacity
also means less affordability many of us
think that putting more money will solve
homelessness I challenge that assumption
by saying that new money on all models
will replicate the same challenges it’s
like building more lanes for roads and
highways than when there’s congestion we
know it doesn’t work yet we keep doing
the same thing over and over let’s take
a look around the world in Austria close
to 70 percent of residents rent in their
capital city Vienna 80% of people rent
and of those 80 percent 50 percent live
in public housing okay I know what
you’re thinking but let’s take a look
closer to home not too far from here in
Montreal last year eleven thousand units
were built in Montreal the majority are
rental units Lana Sherry’s did a movie
le Loup 63 percent of montreal is rent
home ownership is at odds with the goals
that we have as a society in accessing
stable affordable and high quality
housing here’s a snapshot in Ottawa the
majority owned
according to the 2016 census less than
35 percent of residents rent low vacancy
as you saw and it’s expensive in 2018 in
Ottawa six thousand two hundred and two
units were built 15 that’s one five
percent were for rental Ottawa’s largest
landlord is a public landlord I happen
to be the chair of that organization
that’s Ottawa community housing we have
15,000 units but to access those units
we have a waiting list of 10,000 imagine
10,000 residents in Ottawa meet the
financial income levels to access public
housing fundamentally what’s so
different from owning a key to renting a
key like me I know you care
we want our governments to help our most
vulnerable and at the same time we want
our tax dollars to be invested with
impact but as you can see keeping
someone on the streets being homeless is
expensive from ambulance services to
hospital stays – police responses to
shelter use the costs and efforts keep
increasing but the funding models are
set up so that no one sleeps on the
street a professor from the University
of Ottawa Tim Aubry in 2014 his research
team completed research and showed how
expensive this model was or this model
is their findings is important housing
first works giving hope and stability by
providing a key to a unit a key gives
hope more keys more housing more housing
more affordable ‘ti they’re all
interlinked we don’t want people on the
streets so we need more keys but to have
more keys we need vacancies well here’s
the business challenge you buy the land
you pay to build you sell the units you
make your money okay that works
when you’re selling but when you’re
renting you have the same Pro
says same cost yet you’re making your
revenue there’s your seven percent for
the next 30 years when was the last time
you looked at your investment portfolio
in 30 years
outlook the opportunity is that we can
build developers can build units pension
funds were looking for that stable
revenue source can benefit from those
private portfolios the key is housing
the key to unlocking housing is
vacancies yet I keep scratching my head
why are government’s so focused on home
ownership we all understand that
governments need to generate money
generate revenue from property tax
income tax from sales tax to offer
services to all of us sure the real
estate sector continues to do really
well and continues to increase
but imagine ah we can change the
landscape in Ottawa if we were to build
more rental units on public lands if the
private and public sector would
collaborate to build more rental housing
we could unleash the potential of
diverse income communities we could
offer a spectrum of responses to
homelessness we could quickly house
those families living at temporary
shelters and motels we can think of
homelessness differently and proposing
homelessness solutions by unlocking the
potential only with the key can you
unlock we can solve homelessness by
modernizing our housing approach I want
to put a key in everyone’s hands
ensuring that everyone has a home a
kitchen a key to open the door
thank you

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