As Remote Work Continues, Ottawa Vacancy Rates Hit All-Time High

Ottawa Canada

The federal government, Ottawa’s largest employer, has recently set up a return-to-work policy. According to commercial real estate insiders, this has resulted in a unique set of challenges in its downtown office market.

Last year, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat announced a common hybrid model in which its employees would be required to return to the office for two or three days a week.

A resulting two-week national strike in April – with more than 155,000 public servants on the sidelines – disrupted some government services. The work-from-home policy was the anchor for the work stoppage.

A survey released in June by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada showed that 70% of the respondents were “dissatisfied with how the return-to-office policies were implemented.”

This has left some commercial real estate veterans in Ottawa wondering what’s next for the downtown core that’s seeing record-high vacancy rates.

Paul Thompson, deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement (PSPC), recently told the standing committee on government operations that instead of a 40-per-cent reduction in its real estate holdings, a 50-per-cent reduction is now more likely.

Realtors agree that the gap in communications from the federal government is “causing a downward spiral in business.”


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