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As an organization that serves new Canadians, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization recognized the need for affordable housing for immigrants and refugees and, as a result, founded OCISO Nonprofit Housing Corporation (OCISO NHC) in 1991. OCISO NHC completed their first housing project in 1994 and the second in 2011. Both housing projects enjoy 100% occupancy, fulfilling a need for affordable housing, and have waiting lists. This success set up OCISO NP for a new project.
The Canada Lands Corporation, the entity that divests land from the federal government, had a piece of land that they were contributing to the City of Ottawa. Ottawa, in turn, issued a Request for Proposals to entertain uses for the land, which was free and came along with subsidies from the federal and provincial governments. Ottawa was seeking proposals as they recognized the ongoing need in the city for affordable housing and saw this as an opportunity to address that need. OCISO NHC’s proposal, submitted with Sound Advice, a local Ottawa company, won the bid in June 2012.
In order to meet the requirements of the Canada Lands Corporation, OCISO NHC needed to have a building permit by the end of the year. This included the need to pay for a number of construction-related costs within six months, something that normally takes up to nine months to complete, including the design work.
OCISO NHC and Sound Advice learned about the Community Forward Fund and, after meeting with them, applied for a loan. For the proposal, they had much of the paper work required for the due diligence CFF undergoes and Ron Lavoie, president of the OCISO NHC volunteer board, states, “The process was quick and smooth. Given our time pressure, we were pleased that so much of the paperwork was already completed and we were able to move so quickly.”
The Community Foundation of Ottawa (CFO), which has invested in the Fund, has been a long-time supporter of OCISO’s work through its grant programs and, as Barbara McInnes, President & CEO of the CFO, states, “We are delighted to be involved as investors in such an important and worthy project, and look forward to seeing this new affordable housing built in Ottawa.”
The interim costs were covered by the loan from the Community Forward Fund and shovels hit the dirt on December 17, 2012, well ahead of schedule. An independent consultant was hired to evaluate the building’s LEED standing and found that it exceeds the Silver standard.
Community Forward Fund Founder and Senior Advisor Nora Sobolov remarks, “OCISO NHC’s leadership in this area has been exemplary and we are pleased to contribute to this excellent project that will provide affordable housing to new Canadians.”
One of the really outstanding elements of this project is how well it takes into consideration the needs of the client groups. Ron Lavoie notes, “We wanted to create a building that would increase the amount of affordable housing for immigrants and refugees in Ottawa. New Canadians’ families are often larger than the national average so, as a board, we mandated that the new building have several units with three- to four-bedrooms.”