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Converting office space to living space an option for housing crisis

The federal government is expected to share between six and 13 million square feet of office space in Ottawa - space that could be converted into housing.
USED 2021-06-07 Downtown Ottawa aerial MV1
An aerial view of downtown Ottawa. CityNews Ottawa.

An architectural design firm is looking into converting unused office space into housing as one solution to the housing crisis.

Asked by the City of Calgary to assess the city's office and housing stock at the beginning of the pandemic, Gensler principal Steven Paynter found that about 30 per cent of the city's vacant office buildings could be converted into housing.

Speaking on The Sam Laprade Show, Paynter said as the federal government reassesses its real estate portfolio in the capital following the adoption of a hybrid work model, plenty of space will open up.

"The federal government said they were going to share between six and 13 million square feet of space in Ottawa over the next few years," said Paynter. "And there's lots of developers really eager to take on either a partnership or a new project with them to make conversions, not just to residential, but other uses as well."

To assess an office building's candidacy for conversion, Gensler looks at a number of factors including access to public transit, parking, elevator access and floor plan.

Remodelling office buildings also comes with other advantages. The open floor plans allow for flexibility and a re-imagining of shared spaces. In Philadelphia, one building has been rebuilt to include 2,000 square feet on each floor for a co-working space or play area.

"And that's critically important, especially as we're trying to bring people back to downtowns," said Paynter. "We need that sense of community because with that comes the vibrancy of the neighbourhood and can actually solve some of the safety and crime concerns as well."

Listen to the entire interview with Steven Paynter on The Sam Laprade Show below.

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