Published by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services on June 9, 2023


OTTAWA – The First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa (FirstU) and its partners Cahdco, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS), and Theia Partners are thrilled to announce their upcoming housing development project located on Cleary Avenue, unofficially titled “Odayanhaway”, a word in Ojibwe meaning “Little Village”.

The master plan of the project involves two new buildings and programs to help provide much-needed affordable housing to the Ottawa community with themes of reconciliation, prosperity, and sustainability. The first building will be approximately 50 units of affordable housing and will be owned and operated by OAHS. The second building, a planned 16-storey mixed market/affordable rental building, will be jointly owned by FirstU and Theia Partners, a real estate development company rooted in strong values of inclusion, affordability, and sustainability. Overall, the project will provide over 200 families with a beautiful place to call home.

Both new buildings will be close to existing greenspace along the Ottawa River, as well as a new light-rail transit (LRT) station currently under construction.  The project’s transformation of underutilized parking spaces, the site’s convenient access to new public transit, integration with existing gardens, and expected energy-efficiency design choices help to fulfill the project’s environmental sustainability goal.

Much momentum from the project was kick-started in 2021 with FirstU’s Campus Planning Committee meeting with Cahdco to discuss how to build more affordable housing on their six-acre property. The desire for this project came from FirstU seeing the opportunity to transform their campus on Cleary and achieve their goals of meeting community needs and preserving the green space and environment.

Early on, Graeme Hussey, President of Cahdco, provided explanatory workshops on affordable housing and introduced FirstU’s Board of Directors to Theia Partners and OAHS.

“Cahdco listened to FirstU to understand their values & priorities, which included creating affordable housing, reconciliation and addressing climate change,” Hussey recalls. “OAHS & Theia are the ideal partners to help realize this vision.”

With OAHS’s roots in the Ottawa Indigenous community and significant asset base throughout Ontario, FirstU felt confident in the partnership to not only provide affordable housing solutions to the development project, but through the two organizations’ parallel values.

“Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services is proud to partner with FirstU, Cahdco, and Theia Partners on this significant housing development in Ottawa,” says Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Board Chair of OAHS. “We are pleased with their willingness to collaborate with Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services on housing that is designed, developed, and delivered by and for Indigenous people. This partnership showcases how organizations can come together to make a real difference in the lives of Indigenous people in urgent need of housing. We hope that this project will serve as a model for future partnerships and collaborations, and we are excited to see the positive impact it will have on the community.”

Rodney Wilts, Partner of Theia Partners, is just as enthusiastic. “We are ecstatic to be working with such incredible partners on an amazing development,” Wilts exclaims. “Affordable housing, reconciliation and climate change are some of the most pressing issues of today and this project makes a tangible response on all three. We think it is a great model for other Churches and non-profits.”

Over the past year, there has been much consultation with the Congregation and its campus partners on how best to transform the campus. The campus partners include a seniors’ residence, a daycare centre, and a Jewish reconstructionist synagogue, all of whom rent space from FirstU. Consultation included a design workshop, and several town hall meetings for the development partners to present options and hear concerns. Relationships strengthened and by March 27, 2023, members of the Congregation voted in favour of proceeding with the housing project of affordable and market-rental housing on its campus.

“The Congregation’s decision to proceed with the project is a significant milestone for FirstU,” says Brent Nicolle, president of the Board of the Congregation. “It simultaneously advances toward four goals: providing affordable housing, making a tangible step toward Indigenous reconciliation, building an environmentally responsible choice for our planet, and aiming for future financial stability to the Congregation. I am enormously pleased to see FirstU living its values with this project.”

The development partners recognize that there is much consultation with the neighbourhood and the city ahead, and that building a village requires community engagement. Coming together is the key to major developments like this, and the shared values of all project partners including innovation, sustainability, respect, and reconciliation make this collaboration a strong and exciting example of what can be accomplished in a community like Ottawa or anywhere across Canada.


Photo art: Bob Armstrong, FirstU

Project partners standing on the proposed grounds for new affordable housing on the campus of First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa.  From left to right: Rev Eric Meter (Minister, FirstU), Rodney Wilts (Theia Partners), Brent Nicolle (Board president, FirstU), Cathy Connor (Director of Housing Development, OAHS), Justin Marchand (CEO, OAHS)