Pellerin: Adding density to Ottawa neighbourhoods can be done gently

By Brigitte Pellerin, Ottawa Citizen, September 6, 2020

(...)Staff recommend making modifications to zoning regulations in urban wards to permit the construction of medium-sized apartment buildings (eight to 12 units) on existing lots, in order to provide more options between detached family homes and humongous towers. The city calls this the missing middle. I prefer the term “gentle density.” Both essentially mean the same thing. We’re talking about adding the kind of two- or three-story buildings that make Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal or Outremont neighbourhoods so charming.

It also happens to be the kind of building that would help align our urban wards with the Five Big Moves already approved by Ottawa Council, that constitute the backbone of the new Official Plan. Nothing warms my heart like a city that does what it said it would, especially when what it said it would do makes so much sense.


Another reason it’s controversial is residents sometimes fear infills will ruin the character and look of existing neighbourhoods. Not an unreasonable thing to worry about. But the point of addressing the “missing middle” is precisely to add density without adding more awful towers, which are totally not in character anywhere outside the downtown core.

To my surprise, the most enthusiastic support I heard was from Coun. Jan Harder. Her ward, in suburban Barrhaven, will not be affect by the current review but as chair of the planning committee she says “the report is something to be excited about because it could very well help with the affordable housing shortage in Ottawa.”

If we can manage to stop widening roads and add affordable housing in lovely mid-sized urban buildings, you’ll find me cheering, too. Go, Team Gentle Density!

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