Mayor Whitton on Housing, 1954

Mayor Whitton opens the front door to one of the Mooretown units. Image: City of Ottawa Archives MG393-NP-38484-001.

By 1954, her third full year as mayor, Charlotte Whitton had found her stride as the Housing Mayor.

On January 4, an emboldened Mayor Whitton gave her inaugural address at Council. While hers were already very much on the long side, that year’s weighed in at 27 pages, 3 of which were dedicated to housing.

Gentlemen of the Council:

Tonight we begin the second year of the term of the hundredth Council of this organized municipality and enter upon the hundredth year of this Corporation’s existence as the City of Ottawa, which was so proclaimed on January 1st, 1855, following an enactment of the Legislature of Canada, meeting in Quebec on December 18th, 1854.

The City which was then incorporated was approximately 7,000 in population and but a few acres in extent, its Council of 21 members consisting of the Mayor and ten aldermen and ten councillors elected, two each from the three Lower Town Wards of By, Ottawa, and St. George, and the two Upper Town Wards of Wellington and Victoria.

Ottawa in 1954 is administered by this present Council of 23 members, the Mayor, Board of Control and two aldermen from each of our nine wards, which bear the unhistoric designations of One, Two, Three, Four, etc. The Board of Control did endeavour to find agreement upon retaining the past in the present by taking up again certain of the old significant ward names but so difficult was it to obtain any substantial agreement that the Board, being well supplied with numerous other contentious issues, left this one fyled.


Housing improvement was forecast in 1953 along four lines:

(1) Demolition and Replacement of Sub-Standard Housing

The Housing Standards Board has had 280 sheds, etc., 35 substandard dwellings with 60 living units, demolished; 27 more with 53 units involved, are under notice, and 40 more under investigation. Twelve buildings are being renovated and fine new erections are replacing many of those demolished.

Two hundred properties are under notice to connect to existing sewers or water mains; water services have been installed in 93 others; sewer services in 65.

No advances by way of loans have been necessary to any owners.

Seven hundred sheds, outhouses, etc. are under orders for destruction or repair. The Housing Standards Board, the Health and the Fire Department work splendidly together in this field.

(2) Erection of Low Rental Units

The 58 unit Lowren Pilot Scheme has been brought to conclusion; and the first 30 units in the Second Project of 100 units are now being occupied with the others assured by early Spring.

A third project will go before you within the month, more extensive than these two and with certain dual units therein for elderly persons.

These 158 Lowren Units will accrue in 40 years to the City, whose advances by way of a loan total $144,150.00 in a project of $1,441,500.00.

Bonlogis Ltd., French-speaking companion project to Lowren, is well under way with 104 single units in a project of which 40 are almost complete. It will cost $982,800.00 in which the City’s actual advance is $98,280.00. This whole project accrues entirely to the City in 40 years.

Two hundred and sixty-two low rental units are definitely affecting this area of shelter need.

A re-development project of some 60 below rental units is also being advanced in a congested area of the City and should be ready for spring building.

(3) Every encouragement to responsible private enterprise in erection of both rental and owner units. This has paid off, as witness the data from the Building Inspection Branch summarized herewith:

New housing units in the City have increased steadily since 1951, totalling 1,420 in 1951, 1761 in 1952 and the all time high of 2,215 in 1953 or a 26 percent increase in the year. This is a total of 5,396 new dwelling units in 3 years.

Single dwelling units showed a satisfactory jump from 739 to 1,093 in the year, and well above 1951’s 816.

The 2,940 Building Permits issued in 1953 were for $35,355,735.00 worth of building, a million a month more than in 1952 and nearly $5 million above 1951’s record.

(4) Relocation in individual units of the Rockcliffe Emergency Shelter Families

These have been reduced from 750 families in October 1951 to 141 tenants, on December 31, 1953, and detailed analysis shows them to be other than the insoluble problem which they have long been considered. A considerable number have incomes quite justifying higher rentals if the tenants wanted to pay them. Over 10 percent of these tenants prove to be the City’s own employees; with incomes adequate on the one week’s pay for one month’s shelter ratio to live elsewhere; another 10 percent are dependents from other neighbouring municipalities. There is also a fair group of government employees, army personnel, etc. many of whom can pay more rent once the Rockcliffe rentals are adjusted upwards as they should have been, some time ago.

Eastview, on December 31st, paid all indebtedness on its residents but advised Ottawa of no further liability. Ottawa has therefore notified these Eastview residents to vacate.

The Board of Control earlier agreed on an evacuation date of June 30th for the whole project to be cleared and restored to the Dominion authority for its demolition as the property is urgently required for major defence building. On December 31st, 1953, the Dominion made what the Mayor, to whom the adjustment had been entrusted, deems a generous settlement of accounts in dispute since 1946. The Government will accept $17,707.00 as against claims of $90,000, with the provisio that if the buildings are not all vacated by June 1, 1954, the City becomes liable for the whole amount. Moreover, any delay now can mean deferring this defence building which will run some millions of dollars in new assessment.

Since the greater number of these families are earning and capable of relocating themselves, notices are being issued to all, at once, and the Social Service Department will assume responsibility for relocating only those who are its own dependent Ottawa residents.

(5) Shelter for Elderly Persons

A major problem which has to be faced at once, in an aging population, is to assure

(1) more small self-contained low-rental units for two-unit households – (the elderly couple, two elderly friends, one elderly dependent of low-income earners) and

(2) more group residential units for persons who cannot longer live safely alone.

A city which does not look with favour upon municipal homes for the aged must face the obligations of some partnership with the charitable agencies which have given care for so long and so well to so many of our aged citizens.

The Board of Control hopes to lay certain proposals before you early in 1954.


Related to Housing, of course, is the maintenance of rentals at levels affording just return on investment and just cost to the tenant. City Rental Reference provisions to supersede the provincial rental control system, which under provincial and city arrangements, will continue until March 31st, will be laid before you this month and will be in force only until December 31st, 1954.

But it can be said now that these provisions will not take the form of detailed controls but of recognizing some reasonable maximum rental increases, related to the previous allowable increases when controls were earlier relaxed, plus increases to cover proven increases in maintenance costs.

Increases charged over these ratios may be taken before the Rental Reference Board.

The Board of Control’s policy is to allow the usual play of supply and demand to operate in this as in other areas of enterprise with the municipal authority, available to check and control exploitation by either landlord or tenant.


All in all, it has been a year of heavy undertakings and some definite achievement and particularly happy in the crowning of our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, in the ceremonies attending on which your Council and City participated in a manner and dignity, not unbecoming the Capital of Her Majesty’s Senior Dominion.

Ottawa, in the century of incorporation now closing, has probably had worse Councils, and undoubtedly better ones, but no matter what this year may hold, nor who of us may be present in this Chamber a year from the night of this inaugural Council of 1954. I doubt that in the past nor in the future, the City will be served by any Mayor, Board and Aldermen, more earnestly desiring to do only their best.

(SGD.) CHARLOTTE WHITTON, Mayor.1Minutes of the Council of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa for the year 1954 (Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 1955): 45-72.


1 Minutes of the Council of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa for the year 1954 (Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 1955): 45-72.