Homebuilding industry, councillor eye new rules to sideline problematic infill developers in Ottawa

Association says problems are caused by non-members who prioritize profits over reputation
Construction
Stock image for illustrative purposes only.

A flurry of complaints have pushed Kitchissippi ward councillor Jeff Leiper to call for an industry-backed solution to what he says is “beyond disrespectful” behaviour from infill builders in the city.

Coun. Leiper wrote in his ward blog that “enough is enough” when it comes to contractors’ inconsiderate practices and attitudes towards neighbouring Kitchissippi residents. He cites complaints such as damage to trees, improperly handled hazardous materials and work beginning before permitted hours in the morning as fuel for residents’ ires.

The councillor posted a text message exchange purportedly between a Champlain Park resident and a builder that he says “crosses the line into abusiveness.” In the exchange, complaints about a security fence are met with disregard from the builder, who tells the resident “You’re an idiot.”

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The post appears to have touched a nerve with his constituents, who shared their own stories in more than two dozen comments on the councillor’s blog.

Coun. Leiper goes on to say that there are a lack of tools available to councillors and residents to address disrespectful behaviour from builders, arguing that bylaw enforcement is too slow of a solution.

He instead suggests the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association and other industry stakeholders fund the creation of an ombudsperson that would oversee and penalize builders that fail to meet the standards of respect deemed appropriate for the surrounding neighbourhood.

John Herbert, executive director of the GOHBA, told OBJ that he supports Coun. Leiper and the concerns of his constituents, but the ombudsperson suggestion misses the mark.

He says the GOHBA doesn’t have the legal authority to institute such a role – that falls to the City of Ottawa.

“The city (has) the authority, the infrastructure, the staff, the money to handle this thing. The better way to do it is to better utilize, or more surgically utilize the limited resources that they have to achieve the results that we all want to have,” he says.

Two-tiered solution?

Mr. Herbert agrees that the poor behaviour from some builders is “a serious problem,” but differentiates his membership from that bad crop. He says builders that join GOHBA pay fees to do so because they’re concerned about keeping up-to-date on the latest building practices, materials and technology. They’re not out to cause trouble because their reputation matters, he says.

Mr. Herbert contrasts this to another group outside of the organization that he won’t call “builders.” He instead calls them “entrepreneurs,” and says they’re the primary problem-causers.

“They’re not concerned about their reputation. They’re only concerned about maximizing their revenues.”

Mr. Herbert would like to see the city somehow codify this distinction to solve the behavioural issues. He envisions a two-tiered system that incentivizes good behaviour: Builders that respond to residents’ complaints and act respectfully in construction are given access to resources and approvals in a more timely manner; those who behave poorly must wait, or pay.

Mr. Herbert says he has agreed to a meeting with Coun. Leiper and will present his argument and proposal of a two-tiered system at that time.