For the vast majority of posts, foreign service officers live in government-owned or government-leased housing. Depending on the location, we get assigned an apartment or house, in town or in a compound. Canadian posts, it seems, are among the few that do not have dedicated housing for diplomats. Instead, we receive a Living Quarters Allowance to find our own housing arrangements.
Despite the time pressures of the holidays, the folks in Ottawa have been very helpful. I received a complete run-down on the neighborhoods closest to the Embassy and referral to a local realtor to help me find a suitable rental. Most, I’m told, live in a hotel for a few weeks while looking for, leasing, and furnishing a more permanent place to live. Although a long shot, I was hoping to be able to avoid that interim move if possible.
Compounding my challenge was that most leases run from summer to summer to coincide with the school holidays and the weather. Most places come unfurnished and require a trip to the furniture rental place. As a result, there are very few available places to lease. It seems there are not too many people who move to Ottawa in the middle of winter!
Although I’m not quite sure why, I’ve always had pretty good real estate karma. Years ago, moving from Boston to California, we managed to find in two days a reasonably priced rental house a half-block from our kids’ new school despite everyone telling us we were nuts to even waste time looking there. When we were forced to evacuate, along with dozens of other families, after a 50-year flood hit Palo Alto several years later, we managed to lease one of two rental houses on the market the next day. We bought our first and only house at the right time, and I found a great temporary rental place from which to do my A-100 training in Arlington.
Thankfully, my real estate karma seems to be intact. Before the foreign service became a reality, E and I have long talked about living in an urban loft. We since relegated that particular ambition to a retirement plan, some 20 years down the line. While my new place in Ottawa isn’t a completely open plan loft, it comes close.
We found a brand new condo in a building just completed in the past year. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, double the space of my current place in Arlington, a granite/stainless open kitchen, A/V equipment in the open den and both bedrooms, brand new modern furniture throughout, an expansive view of the ByWard Market and the city beyond from the large balcony, and a short walk from the embassy. After some quick turn-around from my realtor, the owner, and the embassy staff, I now have a place to live when I get to Ottawa in mid-February.