Taking back our future with a community sustainability plan

October 23, 2017

Souce: Centretown BUZZ

August 21, 2017 

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Projects like community gardens are one way to help strengthen neighbourhoods. Local community health centres hope to find even more.

by Sally Rutherford

There are days when it seems like Dalhousie is under “urban renewal” siege.

There are condo construction projects already underway and many major development projects in the offing, including the Trinity project, the Lebreton Flats redevelopment, and the Booth Street federal lands project, to name only a few.

Older houses are being demolished and replaced with “luxury” townhouses. Rental properties are being renovated with consequentially higher charges. Property values have increased substantially in recent years, as have property taxes. Housing that is affordable for a large part of Dalhousie residents is disappearing.

At the same time, we are welcoming a large new population of residents with different needs and expectations.

Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC) has begun to ask what these changes mean for the overall health and well-being of the Dalhousie community and its current residents.

One of the best qualities of Dalhousie is its mix of people and incomes. Being close to downtown, the neighbourhood has always attracted people with stable jobs and good incomes.

Nevertheless, this is a community where 63 percent of residents fall in the bottom half of the Canadian income distribution: 25 percent of residents live on low incomes. Of those on low-income, 64 percent are children under six and people over 65.

Dalhousie also has a rich ethnic diversity, with 20 percent of the population speaking neither English nor French at home (compared to the Ottawa average of 10.5%).

One of the challenges in Dalhousie is balancing the different interests of these many groups. How can all of these residents have a say in the way their community is developing? How are the needs of all residents taken into account?

SWCHC believes that healthy people make healthy communities. To be healthy, people need access to affordable food and shelter, health care, and services that contribute positively to quality of life, such as schools, parks and recreation facilities, libraries, grocery stores and public transit.

Meaningful engagement is also critical to a healthy community. As part of the Building Community project, SWCHC is creating a consultation process to ensure that residents have an opportunity to share their vision for the community.

We have the support of many other key organizations in the community, including St. Luke’s Table, the Dalhousie Community Association and the Plant Pool Recreation Association, as well as Councillor Catherine McKenney and the Community Foundation of Ottawa.

Our goal is for a healthy, inclusive, and sustainable community: one with many parks and schools, access to services and shops, places to work and enjoy leisure activities. We want continued diversity that makes our neighbourhood a vibrant place to live. We need development that takes into account the well-being of the community.

Over the coming months, the Building Community project will be reaching out to Dalhousie residents, including those who live in rooming houses, seniors, condo and apartment dwellers, residents in affordable housing units, home owners, employers and businesses, to talk about what a healthy community looks like.

The goal is to develop a plan that the whole community can buy into and that can be used by the City of Ottawa as a guide when it approves development plans in Dalhousie and other neighbourhoods.

The community of Dalhousie is facing change: we believe it can be a positive experience.  Together we can make a difference in how healthy – and happy – communities are planned. We look forward to meeting you in the near future.

This column is a collaboration between the Centretown Community Health Centre and Somerset West Community Health Centre (CHCs). They provide a full range of health and social services to individuals and families. Through leadership and support, they foster the active participation of individuals and groups in a common effort to build healthier communities.