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Local Directory for Ottawa, ON


Do you like your neighbourhood?

A new website – Ottawa Neighbourhoods – was recently launched, and it provides all kinds of interesting information about neighbourhoods in Ottawa.

My own neighbourhood – Carlington – didn’t fare very well, which probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to most of its residents, or to those of you who saw The Citizen’s interesting piece about Carlington earlier this week.

A year and a half ago I bought my first house, and chose this neighbourhood because it was the only neighbourhood I could afford that was within walking distance of downtown. I wanted to buy in Chinatown, Little Italy, Mechanicsville or Centretown, but the only houses I could afford in any of those neighbourhoods were woefully run down and would have required more money and work than I was prepared to invest.

I found a well-maintained, modest little three-bedroom townhouse, 1100 square feet, in excellent move-in condition in Carlington. It didn’t have any extras like a dishwasher or a fireplace, but it had all the basics plus hardwood floors, and it didn’t require any major work other than a new roof. Most importantly, it was only $171,000, so I could afford it.

The neighbourhood, on the other hand, seemed a bit sketchy. Parts of it, like the war house district, were bursting with neighbourhood charm. There were streets upon streets of well-kept, tidy little houses with lots of character and enormous back yards. My street, which borders the war house district, was considerably less charming and more utilitarian. The projects, further west and south of me, were less charming still. The neighbourhood wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t awful, and I felt I could make it my home.

A year and a half later, I still don’t feel like my neighbourhood is home. This is partly my fault, since I haven’t gone out of my way to get involved in the community. As a matter of fact, I’m still on the Board of the recreation association in my OLD neighbourhood. In my defence, I will say that there doesn’t seem to be much of a community to get involved with here. There’s something kind of cold about this neighbourhood – I’ve had virtually no conversations with anybody here in a year and a half. People around here don’t spend much time outside, and I think it’s because there’s nothing out there.

The neighbourhood has potential, but there’s something alienating about it. It lacks cohesion and vibrancy. It also lacks some basic services that make a neighbourhood convenient and livable, such as a coffee shop and a grocery store. If I want to do something that isn’t in my house, I have to leave my neighbourhood because there is nothing to do here. Whether it’s to buy groceries, go to the gym, meet someone for a coffee, go to the library, buy a book, go for a drink, etc, I have to leave my neighbourhood. On the plus side, we have the Experimental Farm, which is lovely, and it includes lots of recreational pathways for walking, running, biking, etc. And we have a pawn shop. (Yes, I know, I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here…)

In my old neighbourhood, Little Italy/Chinatown/Lebreton Flats, there was a community garden, a dog park, a recreation centre, and a river. I knew lots of people and dogs by name, and children talked to me.

The closest I’ve come to a conversation with a child in Carlington was one day I was out running and a girl of about twelve accused me of checking out her ass when I ran by her. (I wasn’t.) (I probably didn’t need to add that, but I just wanted to be absolutely clear about that.)

It’s interesting that the two neighbourhoods have such a different feel, because they share many characteristics: they’re both ethnically diverse with a low average income, a high rate of poverty, and no grocery stores. But Little Italy is vibrant and cohesive and Carlington is kind of cold and alienating. Even though only a third of Little Italy residents own their own homes, 59% of residents feel a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood. In Carlington, on the other hand, two-thirds of residents own their own homes but only 38% feel a sense of belonging. There’s something wrong here.

Do you like your neighbourhood? How much does neighbourhood matter to you when choosing a place to live? Would you rather live in a so-so house or apartment in a terrific neighbourhood, or a terrific apartment or house in a so-so neighbourhood?


13 comments to Do you like your neighbourhood?

  • I like my housing addition (I hesitate to call it a “neighborhood”) – the homes are modest, the lots are large, and everyone pretty much leaves everyone else alone. It is close to the library, restaurants, and grocer stores, but is still relatively quiet. Sometimes I get itchy to move, either closer into the center of town or farther out, but every time I list what I want in a house and yard, well, hey, that’s what I already got. The only thing I would change – and this is a problem citywide – is to add sidewalks from our addition to the nearby shopping centers so I could walk or bike to them.

  • Deb

    I have found that since I moved back into town, having dogs to walk, makes for a more friendly neighbourhood. People stop to talk to the us when we have the dogs with us, while they just mumble “‘lo” when we are walking alone. Almost everyone here has a dog and for the most part, the dogs get along too.

  • Liz

    Well, I actually am quite fond of my neighborhood. Around here though, we call it a village. I live in The Village of Woodstock Vermont. It’s quite charming actually. And everyone knows everyone else. You definitely can’t sneak to the store in your pajamas around here. I moved here 6 years ago and do not, as of yet, own my own home here. My husband and I both live and work in the Village and my son has been in school here since he started school. It’s sad, because we will probably have to move from the Village when we go to buy a house, since the homes are outragiously priced. So many people come to Woodstock to buy second homes, and are obviously better paid then us. lol

  • I live in the country so I dont have to worry about neighbors! Coming from living in the city before – its quite nice!

  • Oops – hit submit before I finished my thought….

    Anyways – the “country” is great because you dont have to worry about the idea of a neighborhood. Its just you & the animals…they dont play music too loud or drive through your yard.

  • Carmen

    I really like my “street”. It’s a short street of regular houses, nothing too fancy, nothing too expensive. During the last “big” snowstorm, everyone was outside, laughing, talking, helping each other. When I garden in the front, people from the apartment building at the end of the street (mostly students or new Canadians) shyly smile and will easily be persuaded to say a few words. We look out for each other…ie, if a garage door is open, one alerts the owners. If a person seems to be missing a piece of equipment to do something, someone else will lend it. On Christmas day, we drove back from my parents’ and decided to check some of the fancy streets in the same area. The houses were lit, there were a few cars here and there and you could see some activity. When we turned on to our street…WOW!!! People were coming and going, cars EVEYWHERE, and driving down we could see large groups of people at the dinner tables. Fantastic!

  • I love the street I live on. lots of trees, lots of kids, a grocery shop on the corner and a high percentage of gay neighbours. unfortunately, after 5 years of living here we have to move next week…

  • I think every time we started with a neighbourhood we liked and watched for a house or place coming up for sale or rent. We liked each one that suited us at the time but what we wanted kept changing. I like walking everywhere and not needing a car or bus where I am now. I can screen out the noise. I used to crave the silence and didn’t care how far I had to go to get it.

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about neighbourhoods lately, actually – “alienating” is a word I hadn’t thought to use, but it’s exactly right. Our neighbourhood is a very strange mix of tall glass towers and crumbling not-quite-heritage buildings, autobody shops and public storage warehouses, the bus/train station, the Skytrain station. It’s near the seawall, which is lovely for walking the dog, but like your neighbourhood, there’s no grocery store and nowhere to meet up with friends for a coffee or drink or meal (unless you count the McDonald’s at the train station). We’re torn – our apartment is pretty great, with a gorgeous view and we both work at home, so a good place is important. But we sure miss our neighbourhood in Toronto, where everything was right there.

  • oma

    I love where I live. I have the isolation of a private road, the neighbourliness of the other twelve full time residents on the lake, and a charming friendly village with all the amenities I need fifteen minutes away. I liked your old neighbourhood better too. It felt like people really lived their lives there.

  • Linda Anne

    Hi – We live in a quiet little neighbourhood known as Heron Park. We have lived here for 19 years and have wonderful neighbours. That is – until the house next door sold to an individual who is attempting to convert a small, single family home into a rooming house. He has framing in the living room to convert it into two small rooms and is doing this to the rest of the house. This contravenes all city by-laws as we are not zoned for rooming houses. His first “tenant” was a crack-dealing, crack-head who terrorized the elderly residents, ripped off many people and tried to cash the previous owner’s dead wife’s government cheque. Thankfully he was arrested. The work is now at a temporary stop thanks to a city building inspector who told him to get the necessary permits for his plumbing and electrical. He was also told he can build as many rooms in the house, but he cannot fill them with people. I fear it is going to be quite a battle. Has anyone else had this situation occur in their neighbourhood, and if so, was it resolved successfully. Our city councillor has advised us that there is not a lot that can be done and that we will probably have a two year battle on our hands. This is what we pay our property taxes for?


  • Dan

    Similar situation to yours on my side, having rented in Centretown for years but never able to afford purchasing there…

    After a failed attempt at buying property in Hintonburg (the house failed an inspection), our realtor turned us on to South Keys, which we had never considered, but it turned out to be a great area to live. The required convenience of Bank & Hunt Club (three grocery stores, four pharmacies, movie places, banks, all the other stuff) and striking distance of work downtown (20 minutes on the bus) with a surprising amount of green space (the walking paths winding all the way to the Greenboro library) have kept us very happy to have chosen this end of town.

  • I definitely looked carefully at the neighbourhood when I was looking at buying a place. I ended up buying in a less desirable neighbourhood (for cost reasons) very near to a neighbourhood I like.