Politics, housing and climate adaptation in Ottawa, Canada


  • Ruth McKay Sprott School of Business, Carleton University
  • Gary Martin Sprott School of Business, Carleton University
  • Magda Goemans Sprott School of Business, Carleton University


Climate adaptation, Municipalities climate policies, Flood risk, Housing, Ottawa


This article reflects on a turning point in how Canadians respond to climate change. The article summarizes research on urban flood risk and resilience in the city of Ottawa. The research involved semi-structured interviews with municipal representatives and developers in Ottawa, and began with extensive background exploration on the politics of urban development and climate change. Our findings indicate escalating debates between key public and private stakeholders—the regulators and producers of housing—regarding approaches to protecting neighbourhoods from flooding. Debates stem from inconsistent pressures imposed (or not imposed) by the market, insurers, three levels of government, geography, differing time horizons and ambiguities in climate projections. Overall, stakeholders appear siloed in their responses to climate change, which limits opportunities to collaborate on geographically-specific and community-based flood resilience. The project increased our understanding of how private and public sector actors negotiate policies, guidelines, and regulations intended to improve the resilience of Ottawa neighbourhoods. Our approach is unique, as there is scant research to date on how the building industry in Canada is responding to climate change and flood risk. The research adds to the growing body of Canadian scholarship on urban development and climate change adaptation. Research results are of interest to municipal policymakers, urban planners, urban studies researchers, the development industry, financial institutions, insurers, and urban sustainability advocates.