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Rooming Houses in West-Central Ottawa Receive Failing Grade Again in 2017

Rooming Houses in West-Central Ottawa Receive Failing Grade Again in 2017

New report card applauds city’s commitment to review licensing by-law for rooming houses, but finds rooming houses often fail to meet minimum standards for safety, affordability and maintenance.

Ottawa, December 4, 2017 – New data shows that 73% of Ottawa rooming house residents have between one and three concurrent mental health disorders. Additionally, 55% are between the ages of 50 to 60. This data comes in today’s release of the 2017 report card on rooming houses from two community health centres: Somerset West and Centertown.

The report card, Improving Health and Housing in Ottawa: An Update on Rooming Houses in West-Central Ottawa, is a follow-up to the 2016 report that found rooming houses in west-central Ottawa often fail to meet minimum standards for safety, affordability and maintenance.

Tenants reported experiencing rodent infestations, mold, exposed pipes and electrical, and no heating for long periods in the winter. 82% of tenants have experienced bed bugs. These findings highlight the critical need for improvement in rooming house living conditions.

Following last year’s report, the City of Ottawa’s Bylaw & Regulatory Services committed to a review of the Licensing By-Law, specifically related to rooming houses and private home conversions. A report with recommendations will be presented to the Community and Protective Services Committee and Council in early 2018.

Rooming houses play an important, but often overlooked role in providing affordable housing in our communities. Since many people cannot afford most options in the housing market due to the high cost, rooming houses meet the desperate need for low-income housing options for many who would otherwise live on the streets or in overburdened City shelters.

The new report card calls upon the City of Ottawa, landlords and the Government of Ontario to take immediate action to improve living conditions in rooming houses.


  1. Ensure property meets fire code and basic property standards

  2. Provide easily accessible landlord or property manager to monitor maintenance and property issues

City of Ottawa:

  1. Invest in a dedicated bylaw officer to ensure monitoring & enforcement of all property standards and fire code as required by annual licensing agreements

  2. Develop a publicly accessible complaint system that supports tenants to lodge a complaint, or by approved third parties on the tenant’s behalf if they do not have a phone, and get appropriate & timely response

  3. Provide resources to address pest & rodent infestations in rooming houses

Government of Ontario:

  1. Implement rent control for rooming houses

  2. Provide rent-supplement programs to close the gap between Ontario Works rates and the cost of rental housing

To schedule an interview, please contact: Oriana Ngabirano, Communications Officer, Centretown Community Health Centre 613-233-4443, ext. 2496;


Available for interviews:

Alexandra Milosevic

English & French

Aleksandra has been working as a bilingual Community Developer at Centretown Community Health Centre for 14 years. Aleksandra holds Bachelor and Master of Social Work degrees from the School of Social Work at Carleton University. Aleksandra is a passionate advocate for community development practice and community health. Over her years at CCHC and within the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres, Aleksandra has worked on issues of poverty reduction, safe and affordable housing, civic participation and sense of belonging. As a member of the Rooming Houses Advisory Committee, Aleksandra has been supporting the development of a comprehensive rooming houses advocacy strategy and advancing health equity for rooming house residents.

Joanna Binch


Joanna is a Nurse Practitioner at Somerset West Community Health Centre. She started out with an interest in homelessness as she was the first nurse with Inner City Health after Wendy Muckle and Jeff Turnbull formed the organization. Completing her masters focusing on medication adherence in the shelter system, Joanna started recognizing how much the greater context and environment affected the health of homeless and unstably housed people. Now working at Somerset West Community Health Centre for over 10 years, Joanna provides clinical care via the walk-in clinic, which is open to anyone without a health card. She also does outreach to rooming houses, hosts a primary health care clinic for those living with HIV and Hepatitis C, and an ODSP clinic for those who do not have a primary care provider.

Kristen Holinsky


Kristen Holinsky is the Executive Director of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa, a non-partisan non-profit organization working in partnership with members and partners to inspire action, to generate knowledge and to inform a community-wide effort to achieve an end to homelessness in Ottawa. Prior to joining the Alliance, Kristen worked as Director, Programs and Strategic Initiatives with the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, a national member based non-profit that advocates at the federal level on affordable housing issues. With a keen interest in grassroots community development, Kristen has volunteered with the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa and Lowertown East Residents Committee, and currently sits on the Board of Directors at Interval House Ottawa.

Natasha Dharshi


Natasha is a Rooming House Case Manager at the Ottawa Booth Centre. Natasha has obtained a Bachelor of Science degree with a Specialization in Psychology at the University of Alberta, alongside a Master of Cognitive Science degree at Carleton University. Her experience working with ostracized and special needs populations for seven years within correctional and rehabilitative systems has allowed her to engage and provide support for a breadth of individuals who have endured a variety of mental health concerns and have suffered from substance abuse and dependence. Natasha specializes in developing psycho-educational programming and has expertise in facilitating mental health training, individual and group therapy and residential and institutional case management. As a strong mental health advocate, Natasha is continuously inspired to work in the interests of marginalized populations who find themselves voiceless in many capacities.


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